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Seventh in a series of diaries on Mitt Romney's delegate math. (#6)

Summary:

I currently project that Mitt Romney will win no more than 1074 delegates which is 70 short of what he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. This nomination is in the hands of "unbound" delegates. Many more delegates are released after 1 ballot, some after 2 or even 3. To avoid this scenario, Romney needs to capture 50.1% of the remaining delegates.

The reason this is difficult to do is simple: the allocation of delegates in the Republican primary favors conservative states where Romney is weak.

For information on the projection and purpose of this diary, as well as me "showing my work," see below.

This update reflects current polling, which has moved in Romney's favor quite a bit, as well as Super Tuesday results and projections.This news increases Mitt's projected total from 959 to 1074.

Accordingto this tweet from MSNBC's Howard Fineman, and his on-air statements, Romney's people are now admitting that they may not get enough delegates to secure a first-ballot nomination.

Why I disagree with this FHQ estimate below.

Introduction

The purpose of this series of diaries has been to analyze, based on the current state of things whether Mitt Romney has enough delegates to win a first-ballot nomination, given a scenario favorable to him.

The purpose of this series of diaries is not to accurately project the final delegate tally. Bias is deliberately built in at each step to make results favor Romney so that the projection is an "upper limit" to test whether Romney can get a first-ballot nomination.

The purpose of this series of diaries is not to assess what the likelihood of Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, or Newt Gingrich being the nominee is. These are separate questions. It seems unlikely to me that even with only a plurality of delegates, Romney wouldn't be the nominee. He simply has to accept the best offer to get whatever amount of delegates he needs to win. Vice President Santorum? Supreme Court Justice Ron Paul? Who knows? This accommodation could occur before the convention.

There is also added uncertainty due to the "penalty" assessed on the states that held "winner-take-all" primaries early. It is entirely conceivable that the "Automatic" delegates (that's Republican for Superdelegate) or others, even if they are not Romney supporters, could, for example, vote to reinstate the delegates from those states and put Romney over the top. Back room deal? Absolutely!

The truth is that no one knows what the real delegate total is even at this moment, nor can they, because many are unbound and may change their mind. In fact, even if a deal is struck, the "unbound" delegates could revolt and reject it. This makes projections even flimsier. What's more, there are so many delegates that are assigned at conventions, that shenanigans are possible--apparent even at this stage (see, e.g., Maine). The only ones we can be sure about are pledged delegates from winner-take-all states. But this diary isn't about an accurate tally overall. It's about whether Mitt can win under reasonably constructed circumstances based on present conditions.

Finally, a certain number of delegates haven't really been decided yet. These state conventions could start getting really interesting the more critical they become.

Some Terms Defined

"Bound delegates" are those delegates that are legally required to vote for the candidate to whom they are assigned. Some bound delegates are what we might think of as "Superdelegates," some are selected at state conventions or district caucuses. Depending on the state, they may be bound for 1, 2, or 3 ballots, or, "until released [by the candidate]." Candidates that are not legally bound are in some states called "morally bound." I do not count those as "bound delegates."

"Automatic Delegates" are delegates who are the 3 RNC members for each state or territory. Most times—but not always—they are unbound.

"Unbound Delegates" are delegates who may vote for whomever they please. Sometimes they are the RNC members from the state or territory, sometimes they are all of a state's delegates, or sometimes a portion. Some are selected from the grassroots, some are not.

It is important to note that delegates that are almost always selected at state conventions. Quite often, there is no reason other than the delegates selected to the state convention require it, that the number of delegates sent to the RNC will be apportioned how the caucus results occurred, especially in states where the delegates are unbound.

If the result at the end is contingent on a handful of unbound delegates, I can see all kinds of chaos.

Methodology

Based on the work done in my first two diaries, I have refined my methodology. The rules for each state are based on this document from the RNC Counsel's office.

Most states aren't even polled at all. Those that are are almost never polled by congressional district. Yet in many states, delegates are selected based on who wins the most votes in a congressional district.

1. In winner-take-all states where there is no state poll, I assign all of the state's delegates to Mitt. This distorts the result in favor of Romney intentionally.

2. In winner-take-all states where there is a state poll and Romney is polling within the margin of error of a plurality, I assign all of the state's delegates to Mitt. This, again, distorts the results in favor of Romney intentionally.

3. In proportional states where there is a poll, I simply assign the number of delegates based on the state poll numbers, rounding up. For example, if the state has 15 delegates and Romney is polling at 33% in the state, I assign him 5 delegates.

4. In proportional states where there is no poll, I simply assign the number of delegates based on Romney's national poll numbers, rounding up. For example, if the state has 15 delegates and Romney is polling at 33% nationally, I assign him 5 delegates. The rounding up slightly biases the poll in favor of Romney.

5. In states where delegates are awarded partially on a winner-take-all basis, I award the winner-take-all delegates according to Rules 1 and 2.

6. In states where there are delegates awarded on a Congressional-district-level winner take all basis, I nevertheless assign the delegates according to Rules 3 and 4.

7. I assign all unbound Automatic delegates to Romney. This intentionally distorts the results in favor of Romney, but I provide a total both without them and with them proportionally assigned. Only 117 GOP "Automatic" delegates are unbound. (That's Republican for "Superdelegate".)

8. I use the delegate estimates from states that have already reported their results that are most favorable to Romney.

9. I assign Hunstman's delegates to Romney as his endorsee.

N.B. Some states have percentage thresholds below which no delegates are earned. Sometimes this is statewide. I only account for this in states with polling, e.g. Texas.

I am currently using a weighted average of 40% as the national polling number, again, to the high side of what is real at this very instant, based on the TPM Polling Average.

Data

Here are some current delegate counts:

DCW Bound Count:
DCW Projeceted Count:
CNN: Romney 404
RCP: Romney 404

There are 2,286 total delegates. 1,144 are needed to win. Romney current has 404. There are 1475 remaining. Romney needs 740 more, meaning Romney must win 50.1% of those left.

Beyond Super Tuesday:

Kansas: 40 Total Delegates-3 RNC, 12 CD and 25 AL
Projection: 18 (Running total: 422)

Virgin Islands: 9 Total Delegates-3 RNC and 6 AL
Projection: 5 (427)

Guam: 9 Total Delegates - 3 RNC and 6 AL
Projection: 5 (432)

Alabama: 50 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 21 CD and 26 AL
Projection: 22 (454)

American Samoa: 9 Total Delegates - 3 RNC and 6 AL
Projection: 5 (459)

Hawaii: 20 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 6 CD and 11 AL
Projection: 10 (469)

Mississippi: 40 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 12 CD and 25 AL
Projection: 18 (487)

* Missouri is already included in the 404 estimate by the major networks.

Puerto Rico: 23 Total Delegates - 3 RNC and 20 AL
Projection: 11 (498)

Illinois: 69 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 54 CD and 12 AL
Projection: 29 (527)

Louisiana: 46 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 18 CD and 25 AL
Projection: 20 (547)

Maryland: 37 Winner-take-all.
Projection: 37 (584)

Texas

155 total delegates. 3 RNC, 108 CD, and 44 AL. 153 bound for 3 ballots. Proportional. CD proportional with 20% threshold. Latest poll: Romney 16%.

Not above threshold for CD delegates.

Projection: 7 bound, 3 unbound = 10 delegates. (594)

District of Columbia: 19 winner-take-all.
Projection: 19 (603)

Wisconsin: 42 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 24 CD and 15 AL
Projection: 19 (622)

Connecticut: 28 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 15 CD and 10 AL
Projection: 14 (636)

Delaware: 17 winner-take-all.
Projection: 17 (653)

New York: 95 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 81 CD and 11 AL
Romney >50% statewide  = 11 AL. + 32 CD + 3 RNC.
Projection: 46 (699)

Pennsylvania: 72 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 54 CD and 15 AL
Projection: 31 (730)

Rhode Island: 19 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 6 CD and 10 AL
Projection: 9 (739)

Indiana

46 total delegates. 3 RNC, 27 CD, 16 AL. CD delegates are bound. The other 19 are not. Winner-take-all on CD basis, the remainder nominated at a convention. Santorum is not on the ballot.

Projection: 27 bound, 19 unbound = 46. (785)

North Carolina: 55 Total Delegates -  3 RNC, 39 CD and 13 AL
Projection: 24 (809)

West Virginia: 31 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 9 CD and 19 AL
Projection: 14 (823)

Nebraska: 35 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 9 CD and 23 AL
Projection: 16 (839)

Oregon: 28 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 15 CD and 10 AL
Projection:  13 (852)

Arkansas: 36 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 12 CD and 21 AL
Projection: 16 (868)

Kentucky: 45 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 18 CD and 24 AL
Projection: 20 (888)

California: 172 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 159 CD and 10 AL
Statewide winner-take-all. 10. CD +64 + 3 RNC
Projection: 77 (965)

Montana: 26 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 3 CD and 20 AL
Projection: 12 (977)

New Jersey: 50 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 36 CD and 11 AL
Statewide winner-take-all: +11. +14 CD. +3 RNC.
Projection: 28 (1005)

New Mexico: 23 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 9 CD and 11 AL
Projection: 11 (1016)

South Dakota: 28 Total Delegates - 3 RNC, 3 CD and 22 AL
Projection: 13 (1029)

Utah: 40 Winner-take-all.
Projection: 40 (1069)

Northern Mariana Islands: 9 Total Delegates - 3 RNC and 6 AL
Projection: 5 (1074)

Total: 1074. Includes all types of delegates.

Conclusions:

(1) Romney must begin winning at least 50% of delegates from each state now or else he will not achieve a first-ballot nomination.

(2) The presidential nomination process is in need of major rationalization and democratization in both parties. The rules are beyond Byzantine. They are Talmudic if I might coin a term. The voters, even in closed primaries and caucuses, will not decide this nomination; party insiders will.

Regarding this FHQ estimate.

I don't disagree that no one else can get a majority. They can't. But this kind of binary analysis doesn't seem to reflect the very real possibility that no one will get 1,144. Hillary Clinton ran until the last primary under much worse math than this. Of course, there were a much huger number of Superdelegates in that race, but the number of "unbound" delegates in this race is also huge. Could those folks be persuaded? Who knows.

I'm not sure I follow how that projection is being made, either. He's not explaining it fully enough for me to compare and see if the two of us really disagree. The trouble is not that Romney won't get a much larger share of the vote. It's that he'll do it in places that aren't allocated RNC delegates in proportion with their populations.

Alabama has 50 delegates and Illinois has 69. Illinois has almost 13 million people and Kentucky has 4.3m. If it were population proportional, Illinois would have 150 delegates. (A state that Romney should do well in, at least in upstate).

If Santorum and Gingrich have the Super PAC money and want to continue, it's very likely they will force a brokered convention. Of course this doesn't mean Romney still isn't the nominee; it's a question of what the other power brokers want to get for their delegates.

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