Friday, March 11, 2016

Californians: Get Ready to Leave Your Armchairs and Get in the Fray!

Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders
It's been a long time since California has been decisive in a presidential primary campaign: it was 1976 on the Republican side (Reagan) and 1972 on the Democratic side (McGovern). Our primary has traditionally been held in June (this year it will be June 7), although there have been exceptions. Front runners tend to emerge early, other candidates run out of money, and the contest is usually decided long before we Californians vote. Nobody wants to campaign in California. We never get to see the commercials. Except for being hounded by fundraisers, in presidential contests we can usually be armchair Democrats and Republicans until November.

Although California experimented with earlier primary elections in February (2008) and March (1996, 2000, and 2004), none of these were decisive because California had moved to a proportional award of delegates in the 1970's. Campaigns haven't bothered with us.

This year promises to be different.

Next up are Florida, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri this coming Tuesday. The Republican contests in Florida, and Ohio are winner take all affairs; and the winner in Illinois will receive "most" delegates. On the Democratic side delegates will be awarded proportionally. Still, none of these states will be decisive. Here is the present tally...

Republicans (1237 needed to win):

           Trump      458
           Cruz         359
           Rubio       151
           Kasich      54

Democrats (2383 needed to win)

            Clinton    760 (+461 Superdelegates)
            Sanders   546 (+25 Superdelegates)

Superdelegates  are prominent Democratic party members who are free to vote for any candidate. Most Superdelegates have committed for Hillary. There are 88 Superdelegates in Tuesday's contests and this means Hillary is on target to have approximately 1,300 delegates before the voting starts on Tuesday (55% of the total needed). The Sanders folks, however, rightly point out that Bernie trails by only 214 votes among pledged delegates, and he continues to be successful in raising lots of money. He's far from having given up.

There are 620 pledged delegates up for grabs on Tuesday on the Democratic side: Florida (214), Illinois (156), Ohio (143), and North Carolina (107). If Hillary wins next Tuesday as predicted by Project 538, she will win another ~410 pledged delegates; but Bernie will also win ~210. This will bring Hillary's total to somewhere in the 1,170 pledged delegate range, and Bernie in the ~756 pledged delegate range. Even if we add Superdelegates, Clinton will still only have ~71% of the total delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is predicted to win Florida (99 winner take all delegates), Illinois (69 winner take most delegates), and North Carolina (72 proportional delegates); John Kasich (is predicted to win Ohio (66 winner take all delegates). If this goes according to prediction, Trump should win another ~187 delegates on Tuesday. This will bring Trump's total to ~645, or 52% of the way to the total needed to secure the contest on the Republican side.

As we look ahead to March 22 (Arizona, Idaho, and Utah) 149 delegates will be awarded on the Democratic side. This will be followed by 172 delegates decided on March 26 (Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska). With delegates awarded proportionally to votes received, it's clear this primary between Bernie and Hillary will drag on for a while.

On the Republican side too, things will slow down after Tuesday. Forty proportionally awarded delegates are up to be awarded in Utah on March 22, then nothing until April 5 (42 winner-take-all delegates awarded in Wisconsin); after that it's New York on April 19, 2016, but New York's 95 delegates will be awarded proportionally.

Therefore, it looks like both contests should still be very much in play on June 7 when 250 winner-take-all delegates are up for grabs on the Republican side (California, Montana, New Jersey) and 758 delegates are up for grabs on the Democratic side.  Clinton and Trump are currently leading in both California and New Jersey.

For us Californians, it looks like we're going to have to leave our armchairs and get in the fray.

Unknown photo/internet stock

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