Monday, January 26, 2004
15%. That's the number that matters.
Why? Because that's the threshold you have to clear to get a share of delegates in the proportional-allocation system the Democrats now use for their Presidential primaries.
You get less than 15%, you get diddly. You get 15%, you get a share proportional to your share of the total vote allocated to those who get more than 15%.
Thus: in Iowa the totals were 38% Kerry, 32% Edwards, 18% Dean and everyone else below 15%. So the delegate allocation was: 17 for Kerry, 15 for Edwards, 7 for Dean.
Right now, in New Hampshire, 2 candidates are polling clearly above the 15% threshold (Kerry and Dean) while 2 others are hovering around that level (Edwards, Clark). In South Carolina, the latest ARG poll show 3 candidates all fairly near the 15% level (Edwards, Kerry, Clark). In Arizona, two recent polls show as many as 4 candidates reasonably near that level (Edwards, Kerry, Dean, Clark). Oklahoma's latest has Clark clearly above with Edwards and Kerry just above the 15% level.
Why am I harping on this? Because the delegate totals could change dramatically if, say, three candidates clear 15% rather than two, or four rather than three.
Let's look at the following possibilities for New Hampshire:
In Scenario 1, only Kerry and Dean get delegates, and the ratio is roughly 60:40 because that's the ratio of their share of the total of all candidates who got above 15%. But in Scenario 2, four candidates get delegates. And the really interesting thing is that Kerry, even though he does better, gets *fewer* delegates because he's now got only 44% of the total of all candidates who got above 15%.
Kerry could win New Hampshire decisively, and still win less than a majority of delegates. And in the Feb 3rd contests, there's not a state in play where you couldn't have three candidates at least in the winner's circle. Edwards could win South Carolina, Clark Oklahoma, and Kerry Arizona - and none of them could come away with a majority of delegates from *any* state. And if that happened, why would any of them drop out? Why presume, even if Kerry remains the front-runner and Dean fails to reignite, that Kerry's going to coast to the convention with a majority in hand? It's not that easy.
Democrats have not settled on a candidate yet. They have real reservations about all four of these guys. And the way they assign delegates gives a strong incentive to each of them to continue to feed that ambivalence, and continue to accumulate delegates, all the way through March 2nd - and, if March 2nd doesn't decide things, beyond.