Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GOP Convention Delegates?

All of this talk about deadlocked conventions leads me to a question that I really don't know the answer to, at least not definitively, so I'm throwing it open to anyone who knows. It's about how individual delegates to the Republican National Convention are actually slated and chosen. Not about how they are apportioned between the candidates; that's well known. But about who these folks actually are.

Now, on the Democratic side, I'm pretty sure I know the answer. The way it works for regular delegates is that each candidate forms a slate and ranks delegates within the slate, and then once delegates are apportioned between the candidates the top people from the slate become delegates. That is, if 100 delegates are up for grabs, the candidate will have a list of 100 delegate candidates, and if she wins 25 delegates then the top 25 people on the list go to the national convention. The importance of all this is that the candidates naturally only slate the most insanely loyal supporters to be their delegate candidates, and therefore those delegates are unlikely to be "bossed" by anyone other than their presidential candidate should it ever matter. Of course, the Democrats also have superdelegates, but that's another and much smaller question.

I'm not sure, however, whether the same thing applies to Republicans -- that is, whether any Gingrich delegates who are chosen will have been slated on the basis of their intense loyalty to Newt, or if they are merely Republicans who are assigned to support Newt based on primary results. Or if it varies by states, if there's any sense of overall where that leaves the convention. I really should know this -- after all, I am the co-editor of a brand-new must-have edited volume about presidential nominations, coming soon in various formats -- but I don't. I've asked a couple people who I thought would know, and come up blank, so I'll throw the question out to everyone: how do Republicans decide who the actual delegates are?


  1. The delegates must be chosen one way or another; if candidates don't get to pick their own delegates as a matter of rule, then the candidate with the best ground game will be the one most able to get friendly delegates slated.

    LOLing at your going wobbly on the question of a brokered convention, also.

  2. I can't answer this question, but the fact that Plainblogger also can't answer it says volumes about the irrelevance of individual delegates in the modern era.

  3. According to the best info I can find - i.e., page 2 of results from Googling the question, featuring an authoritative-looking Ron Paul informational post from 2007 (in other words, the gold standard for hard info):

    The presidential campaigns themselves choose the "delegate candidate" slates to represent them. Here is a description for selecting Republican nominating convention delegate candidates for New Hampshire (all other states are similar):
    "Prior to the primary, each Presidential campaign submits a list of delegate candidates to the NH Secretary of State. After certifying the results of the primary, the Secretary of State informs each Presidential candidate how many delegates they have been awarded."
    Probably can be verified fairly easily with a search or two based on the above language - can't they just answer the question definitively at the RNC or something?

  4. Of course, the Democrats also have superdelegates, but that's another and much smaller question.


    Well, to be a bit more precise, the ademocratically selected superdelegates represent about 20% of the total D delegates, so obviously they are not a "smaller question". They are quite a large question, in fact.

  5. Anon: unless one considers 20% smaller than 80%.

    And, unless one wants to say why the 158/2427 Republican delegates that are automatic (6.5%) (ie, Republican superdelegates that we just don't call that for whatever reason) are, somehow, just so much better. Yes, they make up about 1/3 of the Democratic share. But, seeing as they motivate such undying hatred from you on the Democratic side of things, despite the fact that they've never mattered in a nomination contest, why no railing against them on the R side, particularly since there's no challenge on the D side this year? Why is 6.5% THAT much better than 20%?

    (BTW, 15 of the 158 Republican 'superdelegates' have publically pledged to candidates as of 10/31: 11 to Romney, 3 to Perry, and 1 to Santorum, at least, that's what some guy's blog says, but he includes links to names and stories, so I think it's trustworthy)

  6. And while I'm on it.....

    Actually, the superdelegates on both sides are, essentially, chosen democratically, just not for the sole purpose of nominating a president. The Members of Congress and governors and what-not won elections. The members of the DNC and RNC are selected by a process that involves public election, generally by being elected from their state parties' committees, which are themselves composed of people elected by primary electorates in most cases. So, they are as democratically elected as the Senate was prior to the 17th amendment.

    If anything, the whole process is A LOT more democratic than what we have with redistricting in most states, where folks we elect to be state legislators draw lines for themselves and Congress which, in many ways, guarantee election results.

  7. I think you lock yourself into the polarity of yammering about your evil Faux News enemies, MJ. Your point seems to be that 6.5% is bad, so that means OVER THREE TIMES that 6.5% doesn't matter.

    Yes, it does matter. It is a large question, that 20% of the D delegates are chosen/purchased ademocratically.

    And it is shameful.

  8. Yes, Anon. Yet, I believe this is the first time you have acknowledged that there is that 6.5%. 20 vs 0 is different than 20 vs 6.5. But the larger point remains: they don't really matter nor determine outcomes. Party elites writ large do, but their influence has nothing to do with being non-elected delegates. Some of them are, some of them aren't. The point is: superdelegates on BOTH sides do not really matter. They have never decided the nomination, and it's very unlikely that they ever will, because it would seem undemocratic, as you put it. You don't go into your convention, 2 months away from election day, pick the guy who didn't get the most votes before that, and expect to win. So, it's really a non-issue.

    There's a heck of a lot more undemocraticness in many other elements of our system, which is still, on the whole, very democratic.

    Honestly, I think the Electoral College is much more undemocratic. As JB points out, it almost always goes the way the popular vote goes, but not always. And 3 errors out of, essentially, 103 elections is much more problematic to me than a system that has, in practice, distorted the will of the voters 0 out of 9 times (76-08). And, a system that is a heck of a lot more open than the system that preceeded it until 1972.

  9. But the larger point remains: they don't really matter nor determine outcomes.


    This is an assertion without substantiation. The fact is, those 20% superdelegates are available for direct purchase. They are for sale, and there are people who will pay for them. And yammering about "the other guy's doing it too" doesn't remove that travesty. It just cements it into place.

    Many issues lend themselves to a nuanced approach. This isn't one of those. This superdelegate business is an ademocratic travesty. It is shameful.

    But it is a statement of the Left's mindset, and is so instructive. The betters know best... or they know how to get bought best, at least.

    It's tiresome to have to point out that the Left is constantly yammering about money in politics, and campaign finance reform, but then we have THIS travesty. Cast out first the beam from thine own eye, my friends.

    You can't complain about any portion of an ademocratic system, while enabling this nonsense. It's just shameful.

  10. @ Anon

    I’m with you buddy. I’m outraged that the Democratic Party gets to make its own rules on how it conducts its business. A much better system would be for 5 out of 9 members of the Supreme Court to come up with the rules, this would be more “democratic” and “fair.” But just to ask, here’s the video of the 2008 roll call vote, who exactly is for sale and for what? The delegates from American Somoa have to be in on the scam! Delegates for a non-state, that’s not democratic! That’s unconstitutional!

    But seriously bud, you’re missing the biggest “ademocratic” part of the convention itself (proving how little you know about it) gender balance, look it up, and tell me if that is fair or not (hit it’s a complicated situation.)

  11. Unless the process has changed since 2004, at least here in Humboldt County CA, Democratic party delegates are elected. When I ran as for Kerry delegate, simultaneous meetings of Kerry supporters were called, candidates made statements and votes were taken. I was elected as an alternate delegate. But since delegates were themselves responsible for all their costs for the convention, in practice some of them (including me) wound up relinquishing their places to someone appointed by the party.

  12. There's more than just gender balance in the election process for delegates to the National Convention. There is racial balance and LGBT and disability balance, too. We don't just elect a bunch of straight white guys to represent us at the Convention. And yes, the candidates are allowed to pick their delegates and do submit slates, but in 2008 we were told there would not be a slate submitted by the Obama campaign, and there wasn't a slate submitted. Electing the delegates was left to us. IIRC the Clinton campaign did submit a slate, but I don't know how closely it was followed.

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  14. As much as Our Favorite Anonymous is overhyping the role of superdelegates, it's true that if the convention was brokered, (which is what this question was inspired by) then the superdelegates would be very important, since they'd be a big segment of votes not officially attached to any particular candidate.

    Although as has been said, out and out bribery would be hard to pull off, since half the superdelegates are elected officials who would have to deal with their constituents, and the other half has a murkier system of accountability but still has to answer to a certain segment of the Democratic Party.

    Honestly, the regular delegates would probably be vastly easier to bribe. Precisely because they aren't career politicians, they have no face to lose if they decide to engage in some shady activity once they get to the convention. They'll just go home and return to their regular jobs outside of the public eye. And all they've been appointed to do is to vote for their assigned candidate on the first vote. Once the convention deadlocks and delegates have to start looking for second choices, they're free to vote for whatever the hell they want.

  15. "...out and out bribery would be hard to pull off..."


    This naivete is amusing, but also troubling.

    What "face" is it you think the bought off superdelegates are worried about losing? I dearly hope you lefties don't actually fantasize that such a dynamic exists. Do you... really?

    But at least we can ignore all the lefty yammering about "campaign finance reform". When you build in corrupt dynamics as your base model, we can safely ignore such hypocrisy.

  16. What right do Democrats have to exclude the majority of the populace from any role in selecting Democratic candidates? Clearly, it skews the results unfairly in favor of people who support Democratic policies and interests. Of course, the same goes for Republicans, who use other totally un-democratic and not really very republican means to increase the likelihood that the Republican nominees will be more or less Republican. Some will say that, in a free country, associations of people should be able to get together and choose their own representatives and leaders, etc., by whatever lawful means they like, and if people don't like them, they are free to form or join other associations. That's OK for a bowling league, but not for our political institutions. Clearly, it's long past time to junk the entirety of our political system, which is riven from top to bottom with un-democratic and impurely democratic features.

  17. Some will say that, in a free country, associations of people should be able to get together and choose their own representatives and leaders, etc., by whatever lawful means they like, and if people don't like them, they are free to form or join other associations.


    Well, that would be true if these associations didn't soak up my tax dollars. But they do, and therefore they must comply with what we in the 99% want, not the purchasers of superdelegates.

    Now, if you want to form your associations, and foreswear taking our tax dollars running your political process and party... go for it. But 'til that point, you're unable to find safe harbor in the free association racket. We offer you a harbor... not a welfare teat.

  18. UserGoogol,

    Yes, that's exactly right, except I'd call it a deadlocked, not a brokered, convention.

    As we saw in '08, the most likely role of the supers when there's no majority winner is to support the leading acceptable candidate. If the leading candidate is unacceptable to a major chunk of the party...well, that's when it gets chaotic, and likely ugly. But there's all sorts of other stuff in the system to prevent that from ever happening.


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