Monday, January 07, 2008

Republican Primary - the Details

Amid all the media coverage of the primaries, nobody really talks about how they work. Here's what you need to know about the Republican Primary:

The primary kicked off in Iowa last week and voting will continue until June 3. The 2,380 delegates up for grabs will vote at convention in September. The Sept. 1-4 convention is the latest ever. The Democrats wanted to wait until after the Olympics to hold their convention and the incumbent party usually goes second because it puts them at a political and financial advantage. Each state is awarded a different number of delegates by the Republican Party. Each state automatically receives 10 delegates, plus their two RNC delegates and the chairman of the state Republican party. They get 3 more for each congressional district and extras for having Republican U.S. Senators and Governors, controlling the state legislature, and for voting for President Bush in '04. In some states, the winner takes all, in others they are divided proportionately.

No state is allowed to hold their primary before February 5. However, five states (Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida) are holding their primary before that (Iowa is not included because it holds a caucus). The RNC voted to take away half of their delegates for this transgression. The states are willing to do this in exchange for having a greater influence on the national primary. Winning the early primaries gives candidates the all important "Big Mo" that can carry them to victory, so the candidates shower them with attention. It doesn't seem to make much sense to start with these states, but it is the state's decision. The only way to change it is to stiffen the penalties for starting early.

I think the early primaries are more important for the Democrats, as they begin with more liberal states. How New Hampshire votes probably won't have a big impact on Republicans from the south (see here). It will impact Michigan, though. After a great performance last night, Governor Romney seems to be closing the gap on Senator McCain just in time for tomorrow's New Hampshire primary (keep in mind that NH is a proportional state). Also, 45% of New Hampshire voters are independent and many of them are getting sucked into the Obama tidal wave and will ask for a Democratic ballot instead of a Republican one.

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