Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Romney Takes Puerto Rico; Delegate Projection Math

Mitt Romney steamrolled to victory in Puerto Rico’s primary last night, getting just over 83 percent of the vote. Turnout was on a pace to break 135,000 voters. Four years ago the Puerto Rico Republicans held a closed caucus, so there is nothing to compare the 2012 participation result. The win will likely net Romney 20 delegates. According to our PRIsm Information Network delegate tracking project, last night’s addition puts Romney seven delegate votes ahead of the minimum post-Super Tuesday commitments he needs to secure the nomination.

Tracking Republican presidential nomination delegates is no easy task. Great misconceptions abound as to whether or not Romney can secure the 1,144 delegates necessary to clinching the party nomination before the Republican National Convention begins in late August.

Simplistic delegate projection analyses, such as that of political pundit Dick Morris in his March 14 article on Dick Morris.com, are incorrect. Morris argues that Romney will clinch the nomination in early June because he will win the winner-take-all states of Puerto Rico (23 delegates), District of Columbia (19), Maryland (37), Connecticut (28), Delaware (17), Rhode Island (19), Oregon (28), California (172), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40). Morris goes onto say that Romney is also best positioned to claim the following “winner-take-all” states: Wisconsin (42), Indiana (46), West Virginia (31), Nebraska (35), and South Dakota (28). He then argues that Romney’s share of the remaining proportional states would give him a total of 1,298 delegates, or 154 more than the minimum target figure of 1,144.

The flaw in Morris’ calculations is that most of the states he cites as “winner-take-all” have rather stringent conditions to meet before a candidate is awarded all the entity’s delegates. In certain places becoming winner-take-all means a candidate must capture a majority of the votes cast (Connecticut, Puerto Rico), while others organize as winner-take-all statewide and then in congressional districts.

In the latter grouping – Maryland, Wisconsin and California on Morris’ list – a candidate is awarded a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote, usually 10, and an additional three for each congressional district carried. Thus, for a contender to win all of the state’s delegates in these places, he would have to win the statewide vote and every congressional district.

While it is mathematically possible to achieve this difficult victory scenario, in 2012 it has been rare when a candidate breaks the 50 percent mark. In fact, only nine times has a candidate received a majority vote and in two of those a full complement of candidates failed to qualify for the ballot. Romney scored majorities in Nevada, Idaho, Massachusetts, Virginia (only he and Ron Paul were on the ballot), Guam (only candidate on ballot), Puerto Rico and the Marianas Islands. Rick Santorum recorded majority wins in Kansas and Missouri (a “beauty contest vote” not determinative of delegate selection).

Of those states Morris previously mentioned, only Delaware (17 delegates), the District of Columbia (19), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40) are true Winner-Take-All states. Thus, the projection that Mr. Romney will secure the nomination after the mega California primary on June 5 is more than likely inaccurate.

New York, New York

Now that it is apparent that the three-judge panel’s congressional map for New York will in all likelihood be instituted for the 2012 congressional elections, action is happening in all four corners of the state.

First, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5), after basically having the field cleared for him in the new 6th District, surprisingly announced last night that he will not seek re-election. Ackerman was first elected to the House in 1982 after serving one term in the NY Senate. He becomes the 42nd member not to be standing for re-election. One of those, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), was defeated in her primary. Including the Schmidt seat and the two vacant US House positions, those of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), the open seat count rises to 55.

The Ackerman retirement decision is a surprise for several reasons. First, it is incredulous that he waited until after redistricting was complete to make his intentions known when such knowledge would have made the legislators’ and court’s task easier in collapsing a seat, particularly since the Queens/Long Island area was targeted for district reduction. Second, GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) had already announced that he would launch a long-shot senatorial campaign rather than oppose Ackerman in the new, and highly Democratic, 6th District. Third, sate Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D), who had been planning to challenge Turner, said he would not run for Congress when the Republican and Ackerman were paired, and publicly endorsed his Democratic colleague for re-election. Now, with all of this breaking his way, Ackerman calls it quits.

But, it’s possible that Turner may soon be back. A very late entry into the Senate race, the congressman, like all of the other candidates, must garner 25 percent of the delegate vote at the New York state Republican Convention beginning today in Rochester. Attorney Wendy Long, who also is getting the Conservative Party ballot line, is estimated to be around the 23 percent mark; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appears to have more than 28 percent in delegate commitments. But, Turner, just entering the convention race, is barely over 8 percent, a long way from the minimum 25 percent needed for primary ballot placement. Should he not make the statewide ballot, Turner could pivot back into what is now, at least temporarily, an open 6th District seat.

In Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY-3) Nassau-Suffolk County seat, now labeled District 2 and much more Democratic than his current CD, opposition party leaders are attempting to recruit a strong candidate. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice appears to be the party’s first choice.

Upstate, the collapsing of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D) 22nd District has sent several candidates who were running for what they thought was an open seat scrambling to other districts.

Leslie Danks Burke, the Ithaca Town Democratic Party chair will now challenge freshman Rep. Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The same is true for Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa. The seat is more Democratic than Reed’s current 29th CD, but he begins the race as a strong favorite for re-election.

Democrat Wall Street attorney Sean Maloney, who was originally looking at challenging freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the Finger Lakes district will now run against freshman Nan Hayworth (R) in the Westchester County CD. For his part, Gibson will run in the new more Democratic 19th District. Matt Doheny, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) will opt for a re-match in the new 21st District, which will be more to the Republican’s liking if he can get the incumbent into a one-on-one battle. In the Buffalo area, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who was placed in a heavily Republican 27th District and speculation became rampant that she might challenge Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) in the new Buffalo center city district, says she will fight it out in the new 27th.

Expect much more to come next week when the GOP state convention ends and the Senate field of candidates is set.

Romney’s Reality and Other Struggling GOP Candidates

Now that the dust has settled and the final results have been recorded from the Tuesday night vote, it is clear that Mitt Romney slightly underperformed on the aggregate delegate count. With his win in Hawaii and the sweep of American Samoa’s nine delegates somewhat off-setting his third-place finishes in Mississippi and Alabama, Romney looks to have secured approximately 42 delegate votes on the evening. This is four to five short of his projected bare minimum pace necessary to secure 1,144 delegates before the Republican National Convention begins. Since he will more than likely continue to fare poorly in the remaining southern states of Louisiana (March 24), North Carolina (May 8), Arkansas (May 22), and Texas (May 29) the Midwestern trio of states – Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3), and Indiana (May 8) – are must-win landslides if he is to maintain his victory chances.

In other races, several Republican incumbents claimed renomination on Tuesday night with uninspiring percentages against weak opposition. Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1), House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6) and freshman Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) all won their primary elections outright, but with percentages between 55 and 60 percent. This is hardly a normal result since such efforts against under-funded opponents usually find the incumbent exceeding 75 percent. Tuesday’s congressional vote, coupled with the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2) and former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH-15) last week in the Ohio primaries, could be an early indication that voters’ anti-incumbent sentiments, so prominent since the 2006 election, have yet to subside.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Major redistricting action occurred in only two states during the past week, New York and South Carolina.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The three-judge panel that has assumed redistricting responsibility released the congressional map this past week, and unless the legislature takes quick action, the court plan could shortly be instituted. Candidate filing is scheduled for March 24, so every day that passes without a new legislative proposal, the more likely it becomes that the court map will stand.

The legislature, of course, is more concerned with its own plans, particularly that of the state Senate. The congressional map takes a back seat to the Senate and Assembly unless it becomes a bargaining chip in negotiations between the Democratic state Assembly and the Republican Senate.

The court plan makes sizable changes to the New York congressional map, not surprisingly since the state loses two seats in reapportionment. The casualties are, first, freshman Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) whose district is split into seven parts. He will now face Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5) in the new 6th District, a seat where President Obama captured 63 percent of the vote. Turner represents 46.0 percent of the new CD and Ackerman only 37.7 percent, but the district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Turner is certain to fall.

The collapsed upstate Democratic seat is that of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22). This territory is spread among four new districts, with the largest share going to Republican Rep. Chris Gibson’s new 19th District. Equal parcels (about 23 percent apiece from the old 22nd) go to Reps. Nan Hayworth’s (R-NY-19) new 18th CD and Richard Hanna’s (R-NY-24) new 23rd District. The dispersing of the heavily Democratic territory to Republican districts clearly weakens each of those GOP districts.

The Long Island districts will see major change. Though the 1st District of Rep. Tim Bishop (D) remains virtually intact, 96.8 percent of the territory remains because he is surrounded by water on three sides, the political number actually gets one point more Republican. Remembering that Mr. Bishop survived in the nation’s closest race last election (593 votes against businessman Randy Altschuler who is running again in 2012), this one point adjustment could become significant.

But it’s the districts of Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY-2) and Peter King (D-NY-3) that are truly torn apart. First of all, the two will swap district numbers for the next decade, and King inherits 52.7 percent of Israel’s district. He keeps 47.3 percent of his own territory. The swap increases the Obama percentage by four points, and commensurately takes the McCain number down four. This will undoubtedly cause political problems for Mr. King. Though Mr. Israel only keeps 38.8 percent of his current territory, the new 3rd CD is highly Democratic, so the unfamiliar territory should not cause him much trouble.

Carolyn McCarthy’s 4th District sees a swing of six points toward the Republican side of the ledger, but she will still be in strong political position. Mr. Ackerman’s 5th District is split into five pieces, but he becomes the beneficiary of the pairing with Mr. Turner, as described above.

In the city, all incumbents should fare well. Upstate is a different story, though. Rep. Chris Gibson’s 20th District is changed greatly. He retains only 44.1% of his current district in new CD 19 and gains more than one-third of Hinchey’s Democratic seat. Gibson’s political number swings five points more Democratic, yielding to a 53 Obama percentage. Conversely, while Rep. Bill Owens’ (D-NY-23) new 21st District remains constant in terms of voting history, he adds 32.6 percent from Gibson’s current district in the Finger Lakes region. This addition will likely spell bad news for Owens and makes him highly vulnerable if the Republicans can ever coalesce around one candidate. A split vote between Republicans and Conservatives has led to Owens winning two terms.

The Buffalo area had to change greatly. It is this section of the state that experienced the greatest overall population loss. The big winner under this new draw is Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), whose new 26th District is a center city Buffalo seat. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, on the other hand, is in deep trouble. Her already heavily Republican district becomes even more so under this plan, as the new 27th CD actually becomes the best John McCain district in the state (54-44 percent over President Obama).

Other freshman Republicans Tom Reed and Ann Marie Buerkle get altered territory as well. Reed only keeps 54 percent of his current district, and it becomes more Democratic (about five points more so), but he should hold the district. Buerkle keeps 79.6 percent of her Syracuse-anchored CD, but she will be highly vulnerable as former Rep. Dan Maffei (D) is gearing up another run against her. The new 24th holds its Obama rating of 56 percent.

All totaled, 19 current incumbents retain a majority of their current territory and 10 do not. Expect some highly competitive 2012 congressional campaigns. In a delegation split 21D-8R, it is clear the Democrats will retain a huge edge in the next New York congressional contingent, but the Republicans do have a fighting chance to hold eight seats of the new 27.

It remains to be seen if the map described above actually becomes the electoral footprint for this election and those to follow.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – The three-judge federal panel hearing what many believe is a frivolous lawsuit brought against the new seven-district plan ruled against the plaintiffs and for the state. The Democratic plaintiffs will now have to decide whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court. This ruling virtually clinches that the legally adopted map will be used for the upcoming election and almost assuredly stand for the entire decade. Expect the GOP to capture the new Myrtle Beach district and expand the delegation to 6R-1D.

Here We Go Again: Santorum Takes Alabama, Mississippi

Mitt Romney’s fundamental weakness as a Republican presidential candidate again came to the forefront in last night’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries: He fares poorly in the south and in rural areas, the heart of the Republican vote base. His third-place finish in both states is a surprise considering several polls suggested he would either win or finish a close second in both places.

Looking at the Alabama map in particular, it again clearly illustrates the problems Romney has in an eventual face-off with President Obama. His only Alabama regional wins came in the state’s three largest urban metro areas: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. This was exactly the same pattern we saw in Ohio, where his strong performance in the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati metropolises were enough to propel him to a razor-thin statewide victory. In a general election format, however, the city vote disappears to the Democratic nominee – President Obama – and his weakness within the Republican base regions becomes even more of a factor.

Consistently in the Republican nomination race, it has been Rick Santorum who has far exceeded his polling performance. Claiming first place in Mississippi and Alabama gives the once obscure GOP “also-ran” candidate now nine victories from the 28 states that have held nominating events (Santorum’s strong win in the Missouri primary did not carry any delegates and is omitted from this summation). Romney has won 16 states and territories, Newt Gingrich two, and Rep. Ron Paul one (a tight win in the little-noticed Virgin Islands caucus where only 384 people voted).

Hawaii and American Samoa, in the far western time zones, also held caucuses last night; Romney won both of these Pacific Rim entities.

Turning to the delegate count, we again remind our readers that every projection is a mere estimate. No single accurate accounting actually exists and won’t until the delegates themselves are chosen. Therefore, the most important number to follow is a “guesstimate” of Romney’s delegate total. Even with his two victories last night, it is probable that neither Santorum nor Gingrich can commit the 1,144 delegate votes needed to score a first ballot victory when the Republican National Convention convenes in late August. But Romney is not particularly close to getting there either.

In the four nominating events held last night, by our calculations, Mr. Romney needed to secure 46 delegate votes, and he appears to have come up short. In Alabama, where 16 delegate votes were required to keep pace in order to achieve just the bare minimum majority number, it looks like his total will be closer to seven. Needing 12 delegates from Mississippi, he may have notched 11. He will probably reach or exceed the combined number of 18 for Hawaii and American Samoa, once those votes are fully tabulated.

Still, even with a strong showing in those two places (Hawaii 20 total delegates; American Samoa nine), Mr. Romney will likely fall short of the 46 that would keep him on the trajectory to barely hit the 1,144 necessary votes. He is likely to come closer to 36 total delegates from last night’s voting, rather than the projected 46. Since the delegate forecasts are based upon achieving the absolute minimum number to claim the nomination, the margin for error is non-existent.

In an interview with Fox News last night, Gingrich predicted that Romney would fall short of committing the 1,144 necessary delegate votes once all 56 states and territories have voted. Gingrich went on to say that he would stay in the race all the way to the convention in Tampa, thus remaining alive in an open convention where anything might happen.

The Missouri County Caucuses are next to begin their voting process and will do so tomorrow. The results will likely codify Santorum’s previous primary victory. Missouri delegate selection (52 votes) comes via the caucus procedure. The Puerto Rico primary (23 delegates) is scheduled for Sunday, March 18, followed by the important Illinois primary (69 votes) slated for Tuesday, March 20.