Thursday, 17 January 2008

Wyoming and Michigan - controversy reigns

Everyone seems to have ignored the result in Wyoming. This is possibly because only the Republicans had their vote - the vote for the Democrats comes later on in the year. Only three candidates got delegates. Mitt Romney did well and got eight, Fred Thompson got three and the surprise was Duncan Hunter who got one. It was surprising because he's normally bottom of the results table and this time there were no delegates for the likes of Ron Paul, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. As there is such a lack of reporting on the GOP Wyoming caucus, it's highly likely that this won't have any influence on the people who are waiting to vote.

So, why did Romney get so many delegates compared to the other candidates? This seems to give a good reason:
"One thing to note is that about 10 percent of Wyoming’s population is Mormon. That being a significant number, it may have given Romney an edge."
If you remember the Iowa caucus, you'll know that religion can have a big influence in United States politics.

Why was Wyoming virtually ignored? According to this article in the Kansas City Star, 14 of the 28 delegates were removed by the GOP. As there were fewer delegates up for grabs, perhaps some of the candidates felt it would be worth campaigning. There's also the fact that the cacus was done much earlier this time. Perhaps some felt they couldn't give necessary time. I hope that some of the candidates didn't ignore it because they felt it was an unimportant state. That sort of message could affect future performances.

This AP article gives the reason why the state was punished:
"RNC rules require the punishment for states that hold their nominating contests earlier than Feb. 5. Iowa, which held caucuses on Thursday, will not be penalized because, technically, the caucuses are not binding on convention delegates. Nevada, which plans to hold its caucuses on Jan. 19, will not be penalized for the same reason."
The states know the rules and they know what happens if they break them. I'd like to know who thought it would be sensible to organise the caucus so early.

I'm interested in seeing how the Democrats handle Wyoming. They've seen what happened to the Republicans. Surely they will do things differently.

Another rule breaker was Michigan, but this time it was on the side of the Democrats:
"...the DNC revoked the state's delegates to the national convention for moving the state's primary to Jan. 15 in violation of DNC rules."
Here are the Democrat results for that primary:
  1. Hillary Clinton - 55%
  2. Uncommitted - 40%
  3. Dennis Kucinich - 4%
  4. Chris Dodd - 1%
  5. Mike Gravel - 0%
It seems the success story of that particular vote was a mysterious candidate called 'Uncommitted'! Seriously though, the that category had such a high percentage was that John Edwards and Barack Obama withdrew from that state due to the rule breaking. As the Democrats removed their delegates from the state, Hillary Clinton's win meant nothing anyway.

I still don't think that Hillary has performed very well so far, despite her winning two primaries, compared to Barack Obama's one caucus victory. New Hampshire was a narrow victory and Obama finished second, whereas in Iowa Obama won and Clinton was way back in third. If Clinton was seen as credible in Michigan, then she would have got more of the votes from the people who would have gone for Obama and Edwards. I also have to remind everyone that there are still many states left, so she could still lose the race.

As there seems to be so much controversy over delegates in both Wyoming and Michigan, some of you may be wondering what the delegates do. I must admit that that aspect of the US elections was confusing me for a while. Well, it's a similar principle to the US Electoral College. If you were to e.g. vote for Hillary Clinton in a primary, you would also vote for the delegates that support her in that state. When it's time for the democratic National Convention, all the delegates vote for the candidate that they support. Theoretically, you should get a party candidate after that. However, if they don't get a certain majority, it goes to a second ballot and then the delegates could change their support. That second ballot rarely happens though. Usually the person with the most delegates gets to be the party's candidate.

This means that the popular vote means absolutely nothing. Supporters of the delegate system say that it's better because then the bigger states don't always get to control who becomes the party candidate. However, I feel a major disadvantage is that you could have a situation where e.g. Mike Gravel only has one delegate at the time of the party convention and if it goes to the second ballot he could then get all the delegates. This may be highly unlikely, but it's still possible and would reflect the views of the US population because not many people have voted for him (so far). You could also have 'faithless electors', who are people that are supposed to vote for one person, but actually choose someone else. It would be much better to let the people decide - at the moment the popular vote has no legal binding.

So, we have learned that some states aren't capable of following long-standing rules and regulations. We've also learned Mitt Romney can take advantage of candidates failing to campaign in certain states. We also know that Hillary Clinton is willing to stay in a primary just to get a perceived victory, when it actually means nothing to win it.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Democrats, Republicans, Election, USA, Politics


Alfred Thompson said...

Just to confuse things more, in some states there are so-called "super delegates" who automatically get to go to the convention because of some office they hold either in the government (elected by the voters) or the party (not always so clearly elected). These delegates are often not bound to any candidate although often they endorse someone.
In theory of course it is at least as representitive as say electing members of parlament who elect a PM. In practice? Well it is likely as good as we will get for a while. It is up to the parties to decide who they put up for office and they can make their own rules. Other parties and even completely independent candidates can still get on the ballot and in theory win the election.