Don’t Blame the Rules for the GOP’s Unsettled Primary

Josh Putnam and I have a new op-ed at Bloomberg View that takes on a few myths about this year’s Republican primary.  In short, we show that:

  • The GOP’s delegate allocation process did not switch wholesale from a winner-take-all rule prior to 2012 to a proportional rule in 2012.  This is a common misconception, despite Josh’s heroic attempts to correct it.
  • If you simulate the 2012 primaries and caucuses to date using the 2008 rules, Romney actually loses delegates.  In other words, the GOP would be further from a clear frontrunner, not closer.  This belies the idea that the proportional rule is to blame.
  • The real problem is that the GOP elongated the calendar.  And they did it precisely to prevent a heavyweight from wrapping up the nomination early!

Read the whole piece here.  I thank Josh for spending many tedious hours with the data.

3 Responses to Don’t Blame the Rules for the GOP’s Unsettled Primary

  1. PJ March 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Maybe the rules are not to blame *relative to rules in recent years*, but on the whole, doesn’t it make sense to argue that the “rules of the game” are responsible for generally elongated and unsettled primaries in the United States?

    For instance, if we change the standard of comparison from “relative to recent years in the United States” to “relative to nominating rules and electoral institutions in other countries”, then my understanding is that American primary contests are unique.

    Our system fosters prolonged, candidate-centered races where the party establishment has a comparatively limited role in choosing the nominee. That absolutely seems like a recipe for unsettled primary contests to me.

    • John Sides March 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      PJ: Yes, US presidential campaigns last longer than do comparable campaigns in many other countries. The primary process is one reason why, although there are others (e.g., the date of U.S. elections is known in advance).

      But that’s not what our piece is about. We are responding to the argument that the alleged shift to the proportional allocation of delegates is elongating the 2012 GOP primary. We show that this is likely not true.

      • PJ March 23, 2012 at 1:04 am #

        Thanks for the clarification, and shame on me for not following the link to your post. But it just seemed to me that the title of your post is a bit misleading.