Calculation Politics

Dec. 11, 2015 — A just-released New Hampshire poll gives us meaningful insight into delegate projections and the small size of each candidate’s support basis by the time February concludes. Though the first four voting entities — Iowa caucus (Feb. 1), New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9), South Carolina primary (Feb. 20), and Nevada caucus (Feb. 23) — will be portrayed as trendsetters, in terms of delegate calculation these states will likely have reduced influence upon the 2016 election cycle’s direction.

Early this month, CNN and WMUR television sponsored a University of New Hampshire poll of Granite State voters (Nov. 30-Dec. 7; 954 registered New Hampshire voters; 402 likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters, 370 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), the results of which were released yesterday. On a cautionary note, UNH has not proven itself as a particularly strong pollster, often producing wild results inconsistent with other similar surveys. The liberal Daily Kos Elections organization, for example, rates them as one of the least reliable pollsters on the political scene irrespective of partisanship.

For purposes of our delegate calculation exercise, however, the survey’s accuracy is not particularly relevant. The Republican delegate calculation formula is of prime importance, the actual determining factor about who will win the party’s presidential nomination. Therefore, in order to process New Hampshire’s delegate apportionment we will consider this poll the benchmark.

The data shows Donald Trump leading the New Hampshire Republican field with 32 percent of the vote followed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 14 percent, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) at nine percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scoring eight percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich posting seven percent, Sen. Ted Cruz at six percent, Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson each recording five percent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) getting two percent, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both registering one percent preference. Nine percent of the sample says they are undecided.

If this were the actual vote, we would extrapolate the undecided percentage among the candidate population. This would give Trump 35 percent, Rubio 15 percent, and Christie 10 percent. Under New Hampshire Republican Party rules, candidates must record at least 10 percent of the vote to earn committed delegates. These three candidates, therefore, would be the only ones to come away from the Granite State with bound delegate votes. Calculating the finish among the trio, and understanding that New Hampshire has 23 total delegates, Trump would secure 13 votes, Rubio six and Christie four.

Using the most recent public polling data from the other early states, Iowa, according to the CNN/ORC data (Nov. 28-Dec. 6; 2,003 adults; 552 likely Republican Caucus attenders; 442 likely Democratic Caucus participants) would find Trump receiving 36 percent when the nine percent undecided vote is allocated; 22 percent for Sen. Cruz, 17 percent to Dr. Ben Carson, 12 percent for Sen. Rubio, four percent registering a preference for ex-Gov Bush, three percent Fiorina, and two percent apiece for Gov. Christie, ex-Gov. Huckabee, and others.

Such would translate into 11 Iowa delegates for Trump, seven for Cruz, five Carson, four Rubio, two for Bush, and one apportioned to Fiorina.

In South Carolina, a “Winner Take Most” primary, that uses a combination statewide and Winner Take All by congressional district system, the delegate allocation could reasonably be: Trump 35, winning three CDs and the 26 at-large delegates for placing first, Carson six, with Rubio and Cruz each attracting three delegate votes.

Therefore, with no data yet coming from Nevada, we could see a chart similar to the following after the first three states:

Trump   — 59
Rubio    — 13
Carson  — 11
Cruz     — 10
Christie  — 4
Bush      — 2
Fiorina   — 1

With Trump as the clear leader, but only 4.7 percent of the way to committing the 1,237 votes necessary to win the nomination, it is unlikely that candidates will begin to drop out. Hence, a long run likely awaits them all.

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