News from the Votemaster
Several people pointed out that Hillary couldn't pick Bill as Veep because the 12th amendment says: "But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." As Bill would say "It depends on the meaning of 'eligible'." He is 35 and a natural-born citizen. He just can't be elected President. Justices Scalia and Stevens could probably run a graduate seminar in political science on this one. Maybe a better strategy for Bill is to get elected Speaker of the House and then wheedle the President and Vice President into resigning. It is not even clear if you have to be a member of the House to be elected Speaker. The only mention of the Speaker in the constitution proper is in Article 1, Section 3: "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Several other people pointed out that Zonians are actually Americans, so McCain is probably OK. Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona before it became a state but that didn't stop him from becoming President. Lyndon Johnson stopped him.
The so-called Texas primary is on March 4. But there is no statewide primary in Texas. There will be 0 delegates selected based on the statewide popular vote. What will happen is this. There are elections in all of Texas' 31 state senate districts and in addition there is a caucus. The 228 Texas delegates to the DNC will be chosen as follows:128 delegates will be chosen in primaries in the 31 state senate districts
42 delegates will be chosen through the caucus process starting March 4
25 PLEOs will be chosen by candidate preference at the state convention
35 unpledged delegates, mostly members of Congress and other elected officials will be chosen at the state convention
Since the state senate districts play a key role, let us look at the lay of the land.
Most SDs (Senate Districts) have three or four delegates; the biggest one has eight delegates. In each district, the delegates are allocated in proportion to the popular vote. In a district with four delegates, if say, Clinton, gets 60% of the vote and Obama gets 40% of the vote, Clinton gets 2.4 delegates and Obama gets 1.6 delegates. But since slicing delegates in two has been unpopular since the time of King Solomon, Clinton will get two and Obama will get two. The winner needs to win a four-delegate district by 25% or more to get more delegates than the loser. In practice, then, most four-delegate districts will split two for Clinton, two for Obama, no matter what the vote is, barring a landslide. In districts with an odd number of delegates, the winner always gets more delegates, even if the win is 0.1%. Nine districts have three delegates, so even small victories here are good for a net of 9 delegates. Two districts have 5 delegates, probably good for a net of two more delegates. Senate district 13, around Houston, might yield a net of two delegates. All in all, barring a landslide, it will be tough to pick up more than a net of 15 delegates.
The primary is open: any registered voter can vote in either the Democratic primary or the Republican primary. If you want a district-by-district analysis of what might happen, check out Burnt Orange. The take-home message here is that a big win statewide for either candidate does not automatically translate into more delegates. It matters where your votes came from. For example, if Clinton gets 70% of the vote in the heavily Latino 19th and 21st senate districts along the Mexican border, she gets six delegates and he gets two for a net win of only four delegates, despite a landslide victory in an area covering a quarter of the state. If you want to know how many delegates you get with x% of the vote in a district with n delegates, look here.
At 7:15 p.m., after the polls have closed, the chief honcho in each district ceremonially yells: "May the caucuses begin!" If anyone else is present (unlikely in many precincts), a process begins that chooses another 102 delegates. The precinct caucuses work pretty much like all the other caucuses. Each precinct is entitled to some number of delegates to the county caucuses. Suppose some precinct gets eight delegates to its county caucus and Obama gets 75% of the caucus in that precinct (not the primary vote, which is complete separate. Then he or she is entitled to six delegates to the county caucus and Clinton is entitled to two delegates. After the allocation is fixed by the election in the caucus, people can stand as candidates, pledged to one of the candidates. So if you are an Obama supporter, you can run for one of the six Obama delegate slots to the county caucus. As a candidate you get to make a speech. You could say, for example, "I believe in change so vote for me." If you are running for a Clinton delegate slot, you could say "I have more experience so vote for me." Whatever. If you live in Texas and are a Democrat, you can go to the caucus and run for delegate for your candidate. You might win. At the end of the day, delegates to the county caucuses will be chosen all over Texas. At the county caucuses, delegates are chosen to the state convention June 6. There 42 people are chosen as DNC delegates by the people who made it up from the county caucuses.
It is worth mentioning that Obama has done extremely well in Western caucuses so far, winning North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Idaho cleanly. He also won more delegates in Nevada than Clinton, even though she got more votes due to the same issues discussed above--proportional representation per district. If history is any guide, the Obama forces on the ground are going to be well organized and will dominate the caucuses, no matter what happens in the primaries. Furthermore, Obama is likely to win big in senate districts 13 and 23 due to their large black populations and in 14, which is where the University of Texas is located and is chock-a-block with students and upper-income college graduates.
In addition, another 25 pledged delegates are chosen by the caucuses, but to run for one of the PLEO seats, you have to be an elected public official (e.g., a mayor) or a party leader (e.g., a county chairman). The process works the same as for the regular caucus delegates only the pool of candidates is different.
If you want to learn more about the process, check out the Lone Star Project. If you want to see the full DSP, here it is. Texas is a much more diverse state than many outsiders think. It is not just cowboys on horses with lariats. The NY Times has a good story on why a campaign in Texas is like a small national campaign.
But the bottom line is simple: Hillary Clinton is about 100 delegates behind Obama at the moment, depending who is doing the counting. To pick up a net of half of that in Texas would require a Clinton landslide of a scale we haven't seen anywhere yet just due to the way the rules work. Although Hillary needs a landslide and she may not even get a victory. Three new polls show a close race there, possibly with Obama a bit ahead. Furthermore, polls are notoriously bad at predicting caucuses due to the very low turnout. In Texas the turnout will probably be extremely low because most people are likely to think that having voted already, they have done their civic duty. In states like Colorado and Idaho, where there was only a caucus, turnout was still light. Winning a caucus is a matter of good on the ground organization, something Obama's campaign manager, David Axelrod, is a whiz at.
Three new national polls of Democrats are also looking encouraging for Obama, discouraging for Clinton. IPSOS has Obama ahead by 3% (46% to 43%), Gallup has him ahead by 12% (51% to 39%) and the NY Times has him ahead by 16% (54% to 38%). While these are national and not specifically about Texas or Ohio, the trend is clear and when voters in those states (and Vermont and Rhode Island, which also vote next week) see them, they know which way the wind is blowing.
What about the Republicans in Texas? While John McCain has it all but wrapped up, Texas is having a Republican primary on March 4, too. The rules are much simpler than the Democrats' rules. There are races in each of the 32 congressional districts. If a candidate gets 50% of the vote, he gets three delegates. If the top vote getter is under 50%, proportional representation is used to divided the delegates. There are also 41 at-large delegates based on the statewide vote and three PLEOs.
Here are the delegate totals from various news sources. They differ because in most caucus states, no delegates to the national conventions have been chosen yet, just delegates to the district, county, or state convention. Also, some sources try to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and unpledged delegates, who also get to vote at the convention. When different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently.
Needed to win: Democrats 2025, Republicans 1191.
Here is another source for delegate totals.
-- The Votemaster