Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Washington State Experiment - Delegates and Popular Votes

I'm a Californian by birth, a Washingtonian by upbringing, and am now back to California Dreamin'. My family still resides up in Washington. My dad is a long time state empoyee, now retired, my mom an indefatigable volunteer for community mental health, though she is very ill from life-long chronic health problems, my elder brother is a Democratic Party official and general political activist, and my younger brother works in public health, researching disease patterns among poor and migratory populations. I work for a non-profit IT firm that is chartered to work only with public benefit agencies. We're kind of all deeply committed to the public good.

My dad and I were talking on the phone the other day and he sadly said he and Mom weren't going to be able to caucus on Saturday liek they usually do because her health is too frail to withstand a two hour meeting and he can't leave her alone that long to go to the caucus himself. They are going to try to go to the primary polls though.

Yes, you heard me right. Washington state has both a caucus and a primary election. So here will be a very interesting experiment. What will be the difference between the caucus and the primary? How will turnout differ between them? How will candidate support vary when it's a simple ballot vs. a long tedious meeting? My parents can't participate in the caucus for health reasons, so they have been disenfranchised. (For the record, they were both strong Edwards supporters and I have not asked who they support now, if anyone.)

The last poll taken in Washington, by Survey USA (so I'm inclined to trust it), has this to say about their polling:
1 Week To WA State Caucuses, 2 Weeks to Primaries, McCain, Obama Have Party Advantages: Washington state Democrats back Barack Obama by 13 points and Washington state Republicans back John McCain by 14 points, according to SurveyUSA polling conducted immediately prior to Super Tuesday voting in other states around the country. Among WA Democrats, Obama leads Hillary Clinton 53% to 40%. Among WA Republicans, McCain leads Mitt Romney 40% to 26%. Of rgistered voters, approximately 1/4th say they will caucus on 02/09/08. By comparison, about 7/8ths say they will vote in the state primaries on 02/19/08. Among Republicans who say they will caucus, Romney runs stronger than McCain. Among Democrats who say they will caucus, Obama has a 22-point lead over Clinton.
Obama has a substantial advantage among caucus goers compared to actual voters, an increase of 9%. My husband was listening to an NPR report on the car radio on his way home on Obama precinct captains. They are overwhelmingly college students, 20-somethings without jobs or family responsibilities and total Obama cultists. This is why his caucus wins are so skewed - fewer people who are disproportionately made up of his constituents due to structural factors. Voters who can't spend an hour or two sitting in a room being harangued by Obamabots simply don't get their voices heard.

The other point to take from the Survey USA statement is that only a sliver of the primary electorate is represented in a caucus, so Obama has to win over fewer people in a state to win just as many delegates. If the delegates were decided by primary, he probably would still win the state (though the poll was taken before Super Tuesday), but his margin would be far smaller and his delegate count proportionately less.

The success in the much less competitive caucuses helps build up the aura of winning big, which is why his supporters scream about number of states and number of delegates, not the number or demographic makeup of the voters. They don't like it when it is pointed out that Hillary is actually bringing out MORE voters than The Golden One, is getting MORE of the popular vote, and is doing so in the most ethnically and economically diverse states.

I think Obama will go into the national convention with narrowly fewer delegate votes and much lower popular votes, and will try to claim a victory based on super delegate votes.

Just how did George W. Bush win the presidency? Oh, yeah, on delegate votes, claiming victory over Al Gore, who won the popular vote. To compare, Hillary currently has about the same vote margin over Obama in the Democratic primaries as Gore had over Bush in the general election of 2000. How many people on the left want to say that those half-million votes were less important than the handful of winner-take-all delegates claimed by Shrub? How many want to say that the delegates gained through poorly attended, questionably run, and highly skewed caucuses are more important than those gained from the millions of voters who chose Hillary?



katiebird said...

Caucuses have been a nightmare this year. In Kansas we were swamped with over 2000 at each caucus. If your parents were attending, I'd go into more detail and warning. Our caucus lasted until midnight -- we had to do 10 mini caucuses.

katiebird said...

I forgot to do the email....

Anonymous said...

Yes, caucuses are totally skewed to Obama's demographic, which really reveals how undemocratic they are. The small slice of the electorate that he appeals the most to are the ones who can usually go caucus. Hillary's voters are older and/or have jobs that may interfere, or family responsibilities. And yet those are the base of the party. So these caucuses are very unrepresentative of choosing who base democrats want as their nominee. I can't believe that the powers that be can't seem to understand this.

I am intrigued by the Washington caucus/primary system, though. Which one will determine the delegates, especially if they are completely different?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to caucus in Washington tomorrow. I've not sent in my ballot and already a whole lot of ballots have been thrown out because the voter forgot to check a box indicating if they are R or D. There was no mention in the voting instructions about this requirement. Thank-goodness I am a charter member of procrastinators anonymous -- because now I'll be sure to look for that check box.

I am NOT looking forward to the Obama-bots in the caucus -- they are out in force. They are out meeting the ferries with their cult like devotion to an illusion.

So how do we find a way to be a real democracy in WA state and get rid of the caucus??

katiebird said...

"So how do we find a way to be a real democracy in WA state and get rid of the caucus??"

If it's like my caucus in Kansas (and it turned out Scout Finch at The DailyKos was at my caucus & wrote this diary) you won't have to worry about a thing.

There's no way Kansas is having another caucus. No one's going through this again.