If Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or John Kasich somehow ends up the Republican nominee in 2016, there will be one reason why: the Republican Party’s asinine delegate allocation process.
There are several reasons why the Republican primary process is deeply flawed. Here are the top three.
1. States With No Republicans Decide The Republican Nominee. Because Republican delegates are allocated according to state population, and because blue states are significantly more populous than red states on average, Republicans who hew closer to the moderate line tend to do well in the Republican nomination process. As David Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight.com has pointed out, “Only 11 of 54 GOP Senators and 26 of 247 GOP representatives hail from Obama-won locales, but there are 1,247 delegates at stake in Obama-won states, compared with just 1,166 in Romney states.” In other words, Republicans in the places that don’t vote Republican decide which Republican people will have the opportunity to vote for. And remember – a Republican only needs to win 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.
2. Congressional Districts With No Republicans Decide The Republican Nominee. Wasserman also points out that there are 832 delegates allotted based on congressional districts. There’s a pretty major problem with this: every district in this scenario receives three delegates. That’s true whether it’s a district that went Republican or Democrat, and it’s true no matter how many Republicans actually vote in that district. So, to use Wasserman’s example:
[T]hree delegates are up for grabs in New York’s heavily Latino, Bronx-based 15th District, which cast just 5,315 votes for Romney in 2012. But there are also three delegates at stake in Alabama’s 6th District, which covers Birmingham’s whitest suburbs and gave Romney 233,803 votes. In other words, a GOP primary vote cast in the bluest part of the Bronx could be worth 43 times more than a vote cast in the reddest part of Alabama.
This favors Rubio, as Wasserman points out: “if a hard-right candidate like Cruz dominates deeply red Southern districts…a more electable candidate like Rubio could quickly erase that deficit.” Republican Party attempts to rectify this imbalance with bonus delegates make little difference overall.
3. Proportional Delegate States Skew Red, Winner-Take-All Delegate States Skew Blue. States that vote after March 15 are winner-take-all states. States that vote between March 1 and March 15 are proportional delegation states. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada are all allocated proportionally; South Carolina is a winner-take-all state. But here’s the real problem: all of the states in the SEC primary -- the Southern states – are proportionally allocated. Many of the states after March 15 are winner-take-all, including Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana. As we get later in the process and move beyond the south, therefore, a moderate candidate gains an advantage.
The primary order itself is problematic – why are Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which have gone Democratic in three of the last four presidential elections, leading off the process, especially since they carry a grand total of 10 electoral college votes?
Here’s the bottom line: the moderate candidates still have a systemic advantage in these primaries. That’s a problem with the party, and that’s why so many members of the Republican base feel they’ve been gypped every four years by nominees like John McCain and Mitt Romney.