Time To Start Paying Attention to Primary Rules

As we steam into autumn and early-state presidential campaigns become real, it’s not a bad time to bookmark Josh Putnam’s essential Frontloading HQ site and begin paying attention to how states are going to allocate delegates, at least on the Republican side where strict proportionality is not the exclusive rule.

Turns out there’s been a sudden convergence of four pretty good-sized states on March 15, the first day winner-take-all primaries are allowed: Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. And three of them seem to be inclined to take full advantage of the leverage a non-proportional system might afford, according to Josh, who reported on legislation nearing enactment in the Tar Heel state:

It aligns North Carolina with two other winner-take-all states on March 15: Florida and Ohio. That is 237 delegates that could be split among a number of winners (one in each state) or depending on the winnowing process could go to just one winner. The latter contingency — one candidate winning all 237 delegates — would be in a commanding lead in the delegate count. And with those delegates alone would be nearly 20% of the way toward the 1236 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

That could be a pretty big deal for a plurality candidate looking to get a majority of delegates without a majority of popular votes–like you-know-who.

But on the other hand, another probable March 15 state has moved in exactly the opposite direction, as Josh reported back on September 1:

Jo Mannies at St. Louis Public Radio is reporting that the Missouri Republican Party has opted to drop its traditional winner-take-all method of allocating delegates through its March 15 primary in 2016.

It’s important to keep in mind that however you think this or that candidate is doing in the Invisible Primary, a key part of said Invisible Primary is the final establishment of the landscape for the one where people vote. And that’s still shifting.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.