Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Delegate Math

Marc Ambinder has an excellent description of the complex calculations campaigns need to take in the hunt for delegates. I didn't realize this, but whether a congressional district has an odd or an even number of delegates matters. Unless in the unlikely event that one candidate wins in a landslide, districts with an even number of delegates are likely to allocate them 50-50. On the other hand, districts with an odd-number of delegates will give the eventual winner an extra delegate. That fact leads to these sorts of considerations:

Even though some advisers concede that Hillary Clinton will probably win California, Barack Obama's campaign will heavily target a number of large-and-small, odd-and-even congressional districts in the Bay Area (think Oakland, Berkeley, Marin County) because Democrats there tend to be more educated and younger -- and black -- exactly the demographic profile Obama has used to success in earlier states. But wait -- if you're in charge of Obama's California spending, do you spent, say, $100,000 extra in the 6th Congressional District, which comprises Marin County and Somona County north of San Fransisco? It allocates an even number of delegates -- six. Unless there's a landslide, both Obama and Clinton will get 3, each.

Why not spend that money trying to beat Clinton in the 7th congressional district across the bay -- Solano County and parts of Contra Costa counties, where the congressman, George Miller, has already endorsed Obama? CD 7 allocated 5 delegates, an an extra effort there might give Obama one extra delegate
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3 comments:

Matthew Shugart said...

whether a congressional district has an odd or an even number of delegates matters. Unless in the unlikely event that one candidate wins in a landslide, districts with an even number of delegates are likely to allocate them 50-50.

Phil, those of us who study proportional systems for a living have known that for some time.

:-)




Thanks for point out the relevance of this for the current contest. Now, how can I find out the number of delegates my congressional district has? It matters for my vote, because if I thought my district could give the extra delegate to Obama, I'd vote for him. Otherwise, I'm with Gravel (now that Edwards is out of the running for the statewide delegates allocated to candidates with 15%).

I assume my district (very safe Republican) has 3 delegates, but I don't know.

And then there is the problem of no CD-level polling.

Philip Klinkner said...

Matt--What can I say, I'm an Americanist so I'm pretty ignorant of proportional systems (among many other things). As for finding out how many delegates are in a CD, I'd check with the California Dems.

Matthew Shugart said...

The LA Times has now posted a map with the number of delegates allocated in California's congressional districts [PDF].