One of the latest Clinton campaign talking points making the rounds is that if the Democratic primary had been run using Republican delegate allocation rules, she would be winning. However, I had never seen the campaign produce an actual attempt to break this down by state and analyze it. And considering her campaign's track record with understanding the rules (California winner-take-all? Crying over the Texas prima-caucus?), well, color me skeptical. A few diaries have been floated here with state breakdowns, but all that I have seen have committed egregious errors, such as counting every state as winner-take-all (very few truly are), or failing to understand the very different district-level rules used by the Republicans.
So, I decided to crunch some numbers and do it myself. The details are below the fold, but the final tally is that Obama would be holding an 82-delegate lead going into the West Virginia primary. Another Clinton talking point shot down by the cold hard sniper fire of truth.
OK, now the details:
First, this is not as easy as it looks. The Republicans use a mish-mash of rules that make the Democratic system positively elegant in its simplicity. The states can be divided into the following categories, though there are exceptions that don't fit any of them:
- Caucuses - delegates technically unpledged, usually assigned proportionally
- Winner-take-all statewide primaries
- Winner-take-all district-level primaries
- Proportional statewide primaries
- Proportional district-level primaries
- Winner-take-all district-level plus proportional statewide primaries
- Winner-take-all/Proportional primaries (If winner 50%+, then takes all - otherwise proportional)
- Hybrid caucus-primary systems
There are also a few states, such as New York, where a set of unpledged delegates are added on to the pledged delegates earned by primaries. It is, plain and simple, a confusing mess, which can arbitrarily help or hurt a candidate depending on the rules in place in states where he may be strong.
Second, attempting to map these rules onto the Democratic results requires some fairly large assumptions to be made. These are the assumptions I have started with in order to make this attempt feasible:
- Democratic delegate allocation. This is an attempt to remap the Democratic results using Republican rules. However, I have kept the Democratic delegate allocation by district and state intact. California still has the same 370 pledged delegates. Only the rules have been changed as to how those delegates are assigned to a candidate. [UDPATE] There has been some questioning in the comments about this choice and about what would happen just using the full Republican system, delegate allocations as well. So, I have created an alternate scenario using Republican delegate allocation and added it to the table below.
- No 50% delegate penalty for NH, WY, or SC. In keeping with assumption #1, I decided to retain the full delegate slates for these three states. [UDPATE] I have created an alternate scenario using Republican delegate allocation, including the 50% penalty.
- Unpledged delegates assigned proportionally. Most Republican caucuses do not send pledged delgates to the convention. In some ways, they are similar to the Democratic add-on superdelegates, in that they are picked because they are loyal supporters, but are not technically bound to vote for their candidate. Although final caucus results rarely follow the original voting at the precinct level, they generally attempt to maintain a proportional representation. In order to run the numbers, I have assumed proportional representation for all caucuses electing unpledged delegates. Considering that approximately 20% of the delgates go to the convention officially unpledged, this variable is the largest in terms of its potential effect on the final results.
- Hybrid "primacaucuses" excluded. Texas delegates were assigned using only the results from the primary, since the Republican rules have no caucus. This actually proved to be a massive net gain for Senator Clinton, since the 57 statewide delegates went to the primary winner instead of the caucus winner. Conversely, in Washington, Republican delegates are assigned from both the caucus and the primary, but since there was no valid Democratic primary, I assigned them all using the caucus rules.
- Campaigns ran the same strategies with the same results. This is of course the biggest stretch. There's no way that this would have really happened. Using a different set of rules requires a different game plan, and there's no way the campaigns would have run the same under these bizarre rules. But the numbers are what they are, and I can't make up what I think they would have been under a different strategy. Which makes this exercise purely academic, of course, but we all knew that going in.
- No Michigan or Florida. Sorry, Clinton supporters. Based on assumption #1 (use the Democratic delegate allocation) and assumption #3 (no valid primary held) these were dropped.[UDPATE] I have created an alternate scenario using Republican delegate allocation, which includes MI and FL.
OK, enough explanation, here is the table. The rules for the various Republican primaries and caucuses were taken from The Green Papers. Go there for detailed explanations on how to arrive at these numbers. If you have questions about any of the numbers or how I got them, well, that's what the comments are for! I make no claims to infallibility - these were quick calculations and I may have made an error somewhere.
[UDPATE] I have added an alternate scenario using Republican delegate allocation. Interestingly, this scenario comes out even better for Obama, mainly because the "insignificant" red states, being Republican strongholds, get a higher share of delegates in comparison to the blue states. In fact, this scenario even includes MI and FL and Obama still ends up with a
101 95-delegate lead (fixed error in Mississippi count). This lead is even more significant because there are fewer total delegates on the Republican side! I have added these columns to the right of the table.
|Dist. Columbia||3||12||0||15||+3 Obama||0||16|
|New Jersey||59||48||107||0||+48 Clinton||52||0|
|New Mexico||14||12||13||13||+1 Obama||15||14|
|New York||139||93||199||33||+60 Clinton||93||5|
|North Carolina||49||66||50||65||+1 Clinton||30||39|
|Rhode Island||13||8||12||9||+1 Obama||10||7|
|South Carolina||12||25||0||45||+20 Obama (8 fr. Edwards)||0||24|
|TOTAL||1424||1586||1468||1550||+44 Clinton/-36 Obama||983||1078|