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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

GOP Calendar and Allocation Rules

Beth Reinhard reports at National Journal that the rules of the GOP nomination process could be especially relevant this time:

The national party is requiring states that hold March contests to award delegates proportionally, meaning a first-place finish doesn’t guarantee the whole bag. Winner-take-all states can’t vote until April. The arrangement is designed to slow the flow of delegates to a trickle, unlike the fast floods typical of modern-day nominating contests that render the late-voting states irrelevant.

“From my vantage point, it looks like it’s going to be a protracted battle, and both the Perry and Romney camps are showing that they are planning for something long term,” said Josh Putnam, a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College whose FrontloadingHQ blog is a leading authority on the primary calendar.

In 2008, more than 50 percent of the Republican delegates were awarded by the time the race got to the multistate contest known as Super Tuesday, which fell on Feb. 5. The 75 percent threshold was crossed by March 4, Putnam said.

Although the 2012 calendar is still very much in flux, Putnam predicts that 50 percent of the delegates won’t be awarded until March 13—one week after Super Tuesday—while 75 percent won’t be allocated until May 8.

“We always hear about the states like Arizona and Michigan that are trying to move up, but underneath the surface we have a majority of the states complying with the rules, and a number of them have moved their dates back,” Putnam said.

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Here’s the catch: Even if Perry sweeps the South in March, his lead could be limited by the proportional allocation of delegates in those states. By April, when the winner-takes-all option kicks in, the race heads to Northeastern states closer to Romney’s home turf.

The constant shifting among states friendly to Perry and Romney could turn the primary season into something of a relay race. Which candidate will be holding the baton at the finish line is still anybody’s guess.