This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



February 2012

More 2008 to 2012 Comparisons

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so another thought comparing the Republican race now versus 2008. This was also first posted as a comment on the Primary Season Amnesia post on Chris Weigant’s blog.

One more follow up thought… it really is very important that the calendars are so different between this year and 2008… so let me explicitly do the conversion. As of today, 2012 Feb 14, we have 10.98% of the available delegates allocated or estimated. The closest comparison we would have had in 2008 was February 4th and 5th, at which point 9.41% of the available delegates had been allocated.

On that day… McCain was ahead of Romney, but just barely. McCain had 43.3% of the delegates so far (and needed 50.7% of the remaining delegates to win). Meanwhile Romney was his closest competition and right behind… 41.1% of the delegates so far (and 51.0% of the remaining delegates needed to win.) This was still a race. These guys were very close to each other at that point. (Unlike this year, where Romney has a very substantial lead on Gingrich at this point.)

So if anything, at a comparable point in the delegate race (as opposed to the time of year) Romney is actually MUCH better off than McCain was at the same point. Gingrich is much further behind Romney than Romney was behind McCain. Romney and McCain were neck and neck. Gingrich is nowhere close to Romney in delegates, and everybody else is even further behind.

But February 5th was Super Tuesday. It took several days for all the delegate estimates from Super Tuesday to be complete… but most of them were in by February 8th, and no other primaries or caucuses had happened yet. At that point 50.29% of the delegates had been allocated. McCain now had 59.6% of the delegates so far, and only needed 40.3% of the remaining delegates to get to the magic number and win the nomination. Romney by contrast, now had only 23.9% of the delegates and needed a full 76.5% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win.

So post-Super Tuesday, McCain could do worse than he had done so far by a 20% margin and still win. But Romney needed to more than triple how he had been doing in the delegate count to catch up and win. These are again the kind of numbers where the press will still call it a race because it is fun, but the reality is that in order to close that kind of gap the front runner essentially has to totally collapse AND things have to go very very right for their challenger too…

As for this year, things are MUCH more spread out. After Super Tuesday we’ll still only have some 35% of the total delegates allocated, as opposed to over 50% in 2008. So even if after super Tuesday, Romney is finally starting to get his “% of remaining needed to win” to come down instead of staying flat, he’ll have a decent slog to actually collect the 1144 delegates. If he still is hovering around 50% of the delegates (or less!) at that point instead of routinely winning more than half of the delegates, then we’ll have quite a nice bit of fun before we get to the end of this, and the possibilities of brokered conventions start becoming more real.

But in terms of the delegate race, in comparison to 2008, it is really very early. On February 14th 2008, 56.55% of the delegates were already allocated. We won’t get to that point in 2012 until the end of March or beginning of April (depending on how fast super delegates announce their positions). It was very front loaded last time. This time it is very stretched out….


6 comments to More 2008 to 2012 Comparisons

  • From CW via :

    abulsme –

    Welcome back!

    abulsme (a.k.a. “Sam”) is my unindicted co-conspirator (so to speak) from our 2008 Electoral Math series, here. Before I get to answering him, I have good news to announce to all readers: we are teaming up again this year to provide the same high-quality graphs we provided four years ago, in a new 2012 version of the column series! Woo hoo! Because I am lazy, and because I am consumed by another writing project this year, it may take a few weeks or even months to get this effort moving, but it was such big news that I had to insert it as a public service announcement!

    OK, as to your comment… sorry it took a while to get the first one approved (see: previous laziness characterization).

    OK, you are obviously bent on spoiling my fun, here. Heh. Yeah, Romney’s states were pretty tiny, Electoral College-wise, which is why he dropped out of the race right after Super Tuesday — even with all those states, the electoral math pretty much showed that his chances were toast (something it took Hillary a LONG time to admit, just to be fair). But that didn’t stop me from writing this, as a commentary on the laziness of the media this time around.

    The biggest difference between 2008 and 2012 is the number of states voting by this point: 30 versus 9. That’s a big change in pace. As the RNC planned for, this time.

    Thank you for pointing out your sources, though, because I’ve been searching for such hard data and have not been able to find it through the more mainstream sources.

    What interests me is when Newt will effectively drop out of contention. This doesn’t mean he’ll quit the race, but when he’ll stop being a distraction for the non-Romney voters and start pulling single digits repeatedly. Of course, Newt could surge again (stranger things have happened), but right now I’m betting not.

    Did AZ lose half its delagates? It’s supposed to, if it is indeed winner-take-all.

    And the important question: any news or polls from the Northern Marianas contest on Feb. 25? Heh. Inquiring minds want to know…

    Multiple links cause delays in comment postings… post one link per comment, and they’ll automatically post. Just FYI!

    And, again, welcome back! Hard numbers and other data are always welcome here…


    [ Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 01:15 PST ]

  • From dsws via

    Looking at the “% of remaining needed to win” you see all the non-Romney’s rapidly heading upward. With each contest (with the exception of Newt’s win in South Carolina) even if they win, they aren’t winning by big enough margins to be on a pace to actually win the nomination outright.

    These numbers reflect three things: 1) superdelegates who have endorsed Romney don’t switch, and uncommitted superdelegates don’t endorse his opponents, just because three states (plus a straw poll) go against him; 2) Colorado and Minnesota were proportional whereas Florida was winner-take-all; and 3) the non-Romney delegates have been split among the other candidates.

    Suppose the results did continue to be as bad for Romney as they were in MN/CO/MO. If Romney lost every state by substantial margins, would the superdelegates really ignore the clear decision of the primaries and caucuses? Not likely. If Romney kept losing, would it still be all proportional? Not likely. If Romney kept losing, wiould it still be half to Gingrich and half to Santorum? Not likely.

    [ Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 07:37 PST ]

  • From abulsme via :

    dsws: Yes, you are right in those points. A little more on each… 1) Compared to democrats in 2008, there are relatively few Republican Superdelegates, they would only make a difference in a very close contest. 2) Yes, in the delegate race, the Winner Take All states are clearly much more important in amazing delegates. Winning them becomes much more important because of that. Winning a proportional state only gives you a few delegates up on your opponent, winning a WTL gives you a massive haul and a big leg up. 3) Indeed, the fact that the non-Romney’s continue to split the take is the most important feature of the race right now. If one or more dropped out (or just stopped getting delegates) then the nature of the race would change significantly.

    For your speculation on the future… if Romney’s results continue to be bad…

    A) Yes, his 18 superdelegates might bail, and he may stop getting more of them. But again, small number of super delegates this time.

    B) Would it still be all proportional? Well, yes, the states that are proportional would still be proportional. Not sure what you are asking here. If Romney collapsed completely, then of course he would get much less there. If everybody but one candidate drops out, then of course that one candidate will get all (or nearly all) the delegates in those states.

    C) If Romney kept losing, and then either Santorum or Gingrich collapse and stop getting delegates (or drop out) then indeed there is still room to catch up and pass Romney. One of the non-Romney’s would have to start doing MUCH better in the delegate count than they have so far, but one of them dropping out would give the opening to make that possible. We aren’t at the “impossible to catch up” stage yet, just at the “something dramatic needs to happen to change the dynamics of the race to catch up” stage.

    [ Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 21:22 PST ]

  • From abulsme via :

    CW: Yes, Arizona lost half of its delegates. The Green Papers has extremely wonky super-detailed info on the delegate allocation process in each state if you want to dive into it.

    Speaking of which, I dove into those details for Michigan, so need to correct a bit of what I said earlier. Michigan is proportional in name only, just enough to comply with the rules on that (although they still lose half their delegates for going early). Specifically out of the 30 post penalty delegates Michigan gets, only TWO are allocated proportionately based on the state wide vote. So Romney and Santorum will probably just get one each of those. The other 28 delegates are allocated winner take all in each of the 14 congressional districts, two at a time. So while not quite as all or nothing as a winner take all state, if a candidate has broad geographic support across the state (something which I’ve seen reported Santorum has at the moment) that person could indeed win the vast bulk of the delegates from Michigan, making for a delegate haul almost as substantial as a winner take all state.

    So lets say current polling holds… Romney wins Arizona and gets all 29 delegates there… then Santorum gets his best case and wins Michigan, and wins all of the congressional districts too, so gets 29 delegates of the 30 delegates, with Mitt just getting the 1 from the state. Even if you give Santorum all 30 from Michigan just for the sake of it, this still ends up basically splitting the delegates down the middle from that day… Which would leave Romney still not quite on pace to actually get to 1144 on time, but Santorum still not near the pace he’d need to be to actually be catching up and winning.

    Of course, the trick there is that with that kind of result, the narrative would be all about Romney failing, and Santorum continuing to show strength, and so the big question would then be if those results have a cascading effect on Super Tuesday that are big enough to change the picture substantially.

    And THAT will in turn depend not just on how the candidates do in the popular vote that night, but on the specifics of how delegates are allocated in each of the Super Tuesday states, which, as is fitting, is a complicated mess. :-)

    [ Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 21:40 PST ]

  • From dsws via :

    I was responding to With each contest (with the exception of Newt’s win in South Carolina) even if they win, they aren’t winning by big enough margins to be on a pace to actually win the nomination outright.

    There’ve only been two big nights for other candidates. Two with the exception of one means we’re talking about the other: MO/MN/CO for Santorum. You say that even that win wasn’t by a big enough margin to be on pace to win the nomination outright. I say the numerical statement there is true, but if Santorum were to win every state by six or more percentage points, he would coast to victory. I’m not suggesting that he will sweep every state. He won’t. But if he did, it would be good enough. That win didn’t decrease his percent-remaining-needed, but a string of wins like that would nonetheless give him an uncontested nomination.

    [ Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 09:21 PST ]

  • From abulsme via :

    dsws: If Santorum were to win every state by 6%, it would still all depend on the delegates… the magic number for him right now is 54.1%. He needs to get 54.1% of the remaining delegates to win outright, which is of course much more than the 17.5% he has right now. If he won by 6% in ALL the states, that would of course include the winner take all states, which would probably be enough to do it. More to the point, if he won just a few states at that margin (including Super Tuesday) the other candidates would start to do worse and he would start to do better most likely, because people might start thinking it was a done deal.

    The winner take all states really do matter a LOT more than the proportional states in terms of building up a lead. A 6% win in a proportional state may or may not be enough to be on a pace to “catch up”. A 6% win in a winner take all state most definately puts you in a better place than you were.

    [ Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 10:18 PST ]

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