(Posted March 9) It looked like Michigan would continue to get no respect in presidential politics.
Before March 8, the conventional wisdom was that the Great Lakes State wouldn’t be a factor in determining whom the major parties’ presidential nominees were likely to be. After all, we never have been.
This was despite the fact that, behind the March 1 “Super Tuesday” states of Texas (155 delegates) and Georgia (76 delegates), Michigan was offering the third biggest haul of Republican delegates (59) that any state has had up until March 8. And the 252 delegates up for grabs among Michigan Democrats outnumber those of any other state except Texas.
But then Hillary Clinton suffered a shocking upset loss to Bernie Sanders in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary election. And Donald Trump’s decisive win on the Republican side (+ wins on the same day in Mississippi and Hawaii), combined with Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s disappointing third-place finish, gives The Donald some impetus heading into the March 15 winner-take-all primaries in Ohio and Florida. Virtually all Michigan polls going into the final week of campaigning before March 8 showed Trump and Clinton well ahead of their competition, by anywhere from 20-30 percentage points. Neither did that well — Trump won by about 12%, and Clinton lost by nearly 2%.
Michigan is among the last states to award delegates proportionately based on its March 8 results. Right now, the polls show that Trump would be most likely to wind up with about 25 delegates of the 59 Michigan will send the GOP National Convention. and Ted Cruz and Kasich perhaps 17 apiece. Marco Rubio, whose polls numbers dropped like a rock in the weeks approaching the election, will be completely shut out because he failed to reach the 15% threshold needed to qualify for a small piece of the action.
On the Democratic side, you could expect Clinton and Sanders to split the “earned” delegates (based on the election results), but Clinton is still likely to walk away with a majority of the 147 delegates that will be going to the Democratic National Convention because of her current monopoly of “Super Delegate” potentates (which could change depending on what happens on down the road).
What are the ground rules in Michigan for awarding delegates to the national conventions, based on the March 8 results?
For the Republicans, each of Michigan’s 14 Congressional districts will be awarded three delegates to the national convention. That’s 3 x 14=42. In addition, three delegates will be taken up by the state party chair, the national committeewoman and the national committeeman. That leaves 14 delegates to be apportioned based on the statewide vote for the GOP presidential nominee on March 8.
What happened to “Winner Take All”? Could anybody have expected to get all 59 of Michigan’s delegates by winning more than 50% of the vote on March 8? No. Any state, like, Michigan, that has its primary before March 15 cannot be a “Winner Take All” state, according to Republican National Committee rules.
There’s no “Winner Take All” by Congressional District, either. If Trump, Cruz and Kasich each got 31% of the vote in a particular CD, and Marco Rubio got, say, 7%, Trump, Cruz and Kasich will each get a delegate from that district while Rubio will get none. Of course, that’s way too simple, and it didn’t happen precisely like that anywhere, especially with multiple names on the ballot, including those who dropped out by March 8. So, ultimately, who gets what will be based not only on how well they do in that district but how well they do statewide. Only those candidates who achieve at least 15% of the vote statewide will be guaranteed any delegates at all. If a candidate meets the 15% threshold, he will be guaranteed approximately 15% of the delegates, or as near to that as can be determined by the party’s credentials committee. That committee will scour the district results statewide and determine where that particular candidate should get his delegates, or use the 14 “at large” pool to reach the number that candidate deserves.
These rules are not appreciably different from 2012, practically speaking, except that four years ago it really was “winner take all” for whoever won a CD by more than 50%. Not any more. This year, the results will be apportioned, not just statewide but within a Congressional district.
What about the delegates as people? How must they behave? If the 4th CD results say that Ted Cruz deserves one delegate from the 4th, the 4th must provide one. Whoever it selects, s/he will have to sign a pledge saying s/he will vote for Cruz on the first ballot at the national convention. The other two delegates from that district will go to whomever deserves them, based on not only the vote in that district, but, to a certain extent, on what each candidate deserves based on what s/he has earned statewide. After the first ballot, however, it could be “Katie, Bar the Door!” (and it will be legal).
Is it any different for Michigan Democrats? Not really, except that they award a lot more delegates (147), including 10 national committee members (to the GOP’s two), and seven members of Congress who will be automatically seated. But the 15% threshold in votes must be reached by a candidate in order to get delegates (just like the Republicans), all of which will be awarded proportionately (also like the GOP). That won’t be an issue for either Clinton or Sanders. It will take 2,382 delegates for a candidate to get a majority at the Democratic National Convention; the GOP will require only 1,237 at their conclave in Cleveland.
Let the games continue!