Pity the poor Republicans. Democrats have an uncontested walk-through to the nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016 followed by an Electoral College lock solidified by the aura of becoming the first woman president, when white men represent less than a third of the U.S. population.
The Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report demonstrates the electoral lock by showing that the states definitely for or favoring Democrats in the Electoral College start that party with 217 of the 270 votes necessary to winning the presidency. The Republicans only begin with 191.
Add in the states that lean Democratic — and Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Nevada were won easily by Barack Obama in both of his elections — and Democasts are only 21 votes short at 249. All they need to win is Ohio, Florida or Wisconsin (each previously won by Obama), and Republicans lose.
Conversely, Republicans need to win every favorable state plus Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire. They could pull it off but they have lost all of them in recent presidential elections. It is a long shot although perhaps possible with no President Obama on the ticket, but with his weak record there for all to see.
Things look even worse for Republicans when one considers what they did to themselves to complicate their nomination process. Turning against its traditional federalist proclivities, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has now imposed severe penalties — up to a loss of all delegates to the national convention — on state parties violating its rules concerning when contests can begin and regarding what types can be held.
New rules make penalties more binding with their national convention as the final authority. And therein lays seeds for abuse.
A 2014 rule to assure that Ron Paul delegates voted for the presidential nominee they were nominally pledged to support now allows the Secretary of the Convention to record delegate votes for president solely on his own authority regardless of how pledged delegates actually vote on the floor, a grant of power just waiting for potential exploitation.
Another rule requires proportional division of delegates selected between March 1 and 15. Texas is considering a primary then but will also select 39 of its 155 delegates by a majority of its state convention, perhaps representing the deciding vote in a closely contested national convention.
Do those 39 votes comply with the proportionality requirement? That requirement is vague, also affecting several other states with mixed methods. Some say anything other than winner-take-all is proportional. It all depends on the whims of those validating credentials.
The reason earlier rules pretty much allowed states to set delegate methods and dates on their own authority is that state legislatures, often controlled by Democrats, could change the rules against Republican wishes. Although state parties could legally skirt these laws it was expensive and politically perilous.
To avoid confronting their legislature or local opinion, state parties might risk penalties even at the cost of losing delegates. Even more, states resisted nationalized requirements for fear that the RNC as de facto manager of the convention could manipulate how delegate votes were counted to the advantage of one candidate over another. This did in fact happen in 1952, resulting in the nomination of establishment favorite Dwight Eisenhower.
Several states violated both timing and proportionality last time with few effects at an uncontested convention. This time with more severe penalties, few seem willing to take the risk.
But the desire to go early for greater influence over who is nominated is a powerful incentive, leading many states to consider moving their selection earlier to the March 1 to 15 proportionality period. Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama are discussing a regional primary on March 1 to give the South more influence on nominee selection.
If there is an early southern primary, that could spur other early primaries during this period. But if a large share of delegates are selected proportionally that will delay when a candidate can amass the majority necessary to become presidential nominee compared to winner-take-all methods.
The best estimate today even without such a spur is that 877 delegates, or two-thirds of the majority needed for nomination, would be selected before March 15.
This year with a large number of Republican contestants and no obvious frontrunner one could easily foresee a half dozen candidates all with a handful of votes keeping the nomination process going until 2016s historically early mid-July convention.
For the first time since 1976, there could be a contested convention where no candidate has a majority beforehand. Then RNC backroom shenanigans interpreting the rules to one candidate’s advantage could be decisive.
It would be even more acrimonious, like 1952, but with no universally admired war hero to soften the blow and with Hillary’s already substantial advantage looking unassailable.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reconciling Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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