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    How does a candidate win the party's nomination?

    On Jan. 3, 2012, the Iowa caucuses represented the first vote in the 2012 presidential primary. The mainstream media breathlessly reported "Romney won by 8 votes over Santorum! And Ron Paul placed a respectable third!"

    As usual, the mainstream media got it wrong.

    The mainstream media reported on the popular vote -- the number of actual people voting for each candidate. But the real result is the delegate count. It's the same as the electoral college vs. the popular vote in the general election -- the popular vote is what's reported, but it doesn't actually count.

    Candidates win the presidential nomination by accumulating a majority of delegates, who vote at a convention. In 2012, the Democratic nomination is uncontested -- hence Barack Obama will be nominated, regardless of what happens in the Democratic primaries, at the Democratic Convention in Charotte, NC, on Sept. 3-6.

    The Republican primary is hotly contested. The Republican Convention, in Tampa Bay, Florida, on August 27-30, will have 2,286 voting delegates. To get nominated, a candidate must accumulate 1,143 delegates in the primaries and caucuses.

    The presidential campaigns focus on getting above the "magic number" of 1,143 delegates. The Iowa caucus, despite all the media hoopla, assigned only 25 delegates -- 13 to Romney and 12 to Santorum. Iowa is a small state and so is New Hampshire -- the N.H. Republican primary on Jan. 10 will assign only another 12 delegates. Here is the popular vote count, and the delegate vote count, from the Iowa caucus:

    Candidate Popular Vote Delegate Count
    Mitt Romney 30,015 13
    Rick Santorum 30,007 12
    Ron Paul 26,219 0
    Newt Gingrich 16,251 0
    Rick Perry 12,604 0
    Michele Bachmann 6,073 0
    Jon Huntsman 745 0
    Herman Cain 58 0
    Buddy Roemer 31 0

    If you want to think like a presidential campaign, think about delegates -- don't think about the popular vote. All public polls report on the popular vote, but the campaigns run internal delegate polling! When the Huntsman campaign said, "We're not going to campaign in Iowa" they meant "We don't believe we can win one delegate there, but we do believe we can win some delegates in N.H. if we focus our resources there."

    The Ron Paul campaign DID campaign in Iowa -- because they thought they could win some delegates -- but they failed. Ron Paul's 3rd-place finish got the same number of delegates as Huntsman's 7th-place finish: Zero! The delegate counts tend to amplify differences in the popular vote -- because they are assigned by precinct summed into districts -- each state decides their own methods for converting popular vote into actual delegates.

    In the chart below, we summarize the number of delegates for each state. The columns are explained fully below the chart, but in summary:

    • District Delegates are those elected within each states' districts (determined by who gets the majority of the popular vote within each district, more or less)
    • At-Large Delegates are those elected statewide, based on which candidate gets the majority of the popular vote statewide.
    • Total Delegates sum the first two columns, plus an additional three delegate seats for elected party officials from each state.
    • An asterisk to the right of the Total Delegates column indicates that a state broke the national party rules and is hence penalized by reducing its delegate count by half.
    State District Delegates At-Large Delegates Total Delegates
    Alabama 21 26 50
    Alaska 3 21 27
    Arizona 27 28 29 *
    Arkansas 12 21 36
    California 159 10 172
    Colorado 21 12 36
    Connecticut 15 10 28
    Delaware 3 11 17
    Florida 81 15 50 *
    Georgia 42 31 76
    Hawaii 6 11 20
    Idaho 6 23 32
    Illinois 54 12 69
    Indiana 27 16 46
    Iowa 12 13 28
    Kansas 12 25 40
    Kentucky 18 24 45
    Louisiana 18 25 46
    Maine 6 15 24
    Maryland 24 10 37
    Massachusetts 27 11 41
    Michigan 42 14 30 *
    Minnesota 24 13 40
    Mississippi 12 25 40
    Missouri 24 25 52
    Montana 3 20 26
    Nebraska 9 23 35
    Nevada 12 13 28
    New Hampshire 6 14 12 *
    New Jersey 36 11 50
    New Mexico 9 11 23
    New York 81 11 95
    North Carolina 39 13 55
    North Dakota 3 22 28
    Ohio 48 15 66
    Oklahoma 15 25 43
    Oregon 15 10 28
    Pennsylvania 54 15 72
    Rhode Island 6 10 19
    South Carolina 21 26 25 *
    South Dakota 3 22 28
    Tennessee 27 28 58
    Texas 108 44 155
    Utah 12 25 40
    Vermont 3 11 17
    Virginia 33 13 49
    Washington 30 10 43
    West Virginia 9 19 31
    Wisconsin 24 15 42
    Wyoming 3 23 29
    DC/Territories 0 60 78
    TOTAL 1305 956 2286

    With this chart, you're equipped to look beyond the media hoopla and see what the candidates' campaigns look at: How many delegates are at stake? And how can we focus our resources to maximize our delegates?

    The campaigns have more detailed charts than the one above. How exactly the district popular votes convert to delegates matters -- for example, if a candidate runs strongly in one particular city, the candidate might campaign heavily there, to get the majority in that district, and hence its delegate, even if they lose elsewhere in the state. Campaigns call that "campaign strategy" -- and it's mostly unreported in the mainstream media.

    Some of the other relevant details beyond the chart above are how the number of At-Large Delegates are assigned. Every state gets 10 at-large delegates ("At-Large" just means "not based in one district). Then a state gets additional seats for each federal elected Republican; for each state chamber with a Republican majority; how the state voted in the 2008 presidential election; and other "bonus delegates."

    The asterisks above each have an interesting story behind them. (THe asterisks mean a state lost hal its delegates for breaking the party rules). States have an incentive to hold their primaries early, since the media and the candidates pay more attention to them. But the national party has an incentive to make every state count, for fairness, and to build up their party memebership. So the national party established rules about when states can hold their primaries, with special rules for those states with traditionally early votes. States can choose to break those rules, as many did, but half of their delegate count is then removed.

    For additional information (in GREATLY more detail than this summary!) see:
    -- Summary by Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief,, Jan. 5, 2012.

    Candidates' Issue Pages:
    Pres.Barack Obama
    V.P.Joe Biden
    GOP Candidates:
    Rep.Newt Gingrich(GA)
    Gov.Jon Huntsman(UT)
    Rep.Thaddeus McCotter(MI)
    Rep.Ron Paul(TX)
    Gov.Rick Perry(TX)
    Gov.Buddy Roemer(LA)
    Gov.Mitt Romney(MA)
    Sen.Rick Santorum(PA)

    Third Party Candidates:
    Gov.Gary Johnson(NM, Libertarian)
    Jill Stein(MA, Green)
    Mayor Johnson Anderson(UT, Justice Party)
    GOP Withdrawals:
    Rep.Michele Bachmann(MN)
    Herman Cain(GA)
    Gov.Haley Barbour(MS)
    Gov.Chris Cristie(NJ)
    Mayor Rudy Giuliani(NYC)
    Gov.Mike Huckabee(AR)
    Gov.Bobby Jindal(LA)
    Gov.Sarah Palin(AK)
    Gov.Tim Pawlenty(MN)
    Donald Trump(NY)