Posts Tagged RNC

It’s the Delegates, Stupid


As the lengthy presidential primary and caucus season moves into its end stages the electorate is beginning to realize that winning delegates is more important than winning states.  The value of delegates is rising in both the Democratic and Republican contests as Bernie Sanders’ victories fail to translate into delegates and the GOP race has become so fragmented a contested convention is now a very real possibility.

Not since 1976 have Americans witnessed a contested convention.  When the GOP met in Kansas City that year incumbent President Gerald R. Ford entered the convention just short of having a majority of delegates.  He ended up beating Ronald Reagan for the nomination before losing the General Election to Jimmy Carter.

In recent decades presidential nominating conventions have been little more than three or four day infomercials.  The primary and caucus system determined nominees well in advance of the conventions which then were heavily scripted to establish campaign themes and play to a television audience.  As a result voters have lost sight of the fact that primaries and caucuses do not pick the nominee – delegates do.

That is not to say voting in a primary or a caucus doesn’t matter.  It does as many delegates are bound – at least on the first ballot – to the outcome of a primary or caucus win.  Most, but not all, will be so encumbered.  But, should it take more than one ballot many of those delegates become unbound and are then free to vote for whomever they choose. There are also “super delegates” on the Democratic side: party officials who are not bound to any specific candidate, and uncommitted delegates on the Republican side who are similarly unfettered.

The race for the Republican presidential nomination began with 17 candidates competing creating an environment which raised the potential for a contested convention.  Looking at the math it will be difficult for any candidate to secure a majority of committed delegates prior to the convention, but Donald Trump and Ted Cruz still remain mathematically viable.  Ohio Governor John Kasich has been mathematically eliminated, but is pinning his hopes on winning over delegates in a contested convention.

As if this were not confusing enough for the average voter, Pennsylvania Republicans will face a challenge when they step into the voting booth on April 26th.  The first step is simple enough: voters can cast their ballot for the presidential candidate of their choice.  The winner of the statewide presidential primary will then get 17 at-large delegates committed to him on the first ballot in Cleveland.  If the convention takes more than one ballot to arrive at a nominee, those 17 may then vote as they see fit.

Now for the complicated part: Three delegates will be elected from each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts.  The names of the delegate candidates will appear on the ballot, but the word “uncommitted” will appear under each.  This means the voters will not be able to tell by looking at the ballot for whom each delegate candidate is committed – or if they are committed at all.  Thus, to make your vote really matter you must go into the polls knowing not only which presidential candidate you will vote for, but you must also know which delegate candidates are supportive of your presidential candidate.

Some delegate candidates say they will vote for whichever presidential candidate wins their congressional district.  You therefore have no way of knowing whether or not that delegate candidate will support your choice for president until after all of the votes are counted.

Presidential campaigns will be working to elect their delegates, but this year’s primary requires voters themselves to do a bit of homework before going to the polls.  To effectively support a presidential candidate the voter must vote not only for that candidate, but also for three delegates pledged to him.  And they must know who those delegate candidates are before going into the polling place, otherwise their delegate votes are a shot in the dark.

Famed political consultant Jim Carville once put a sign on the wall of Bill Clinton’s campaign headquarters that read: “It’s the economy, stupid.”  That was to keep the focus on the campaign’s central message to voters.  This year the presidential primary in Penn’s Woods will actually matter.  We can update the old Carville saying to: It’s the delegates, stupid.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: PA Budget Impasse Update


Radio Program Schedule for the week of August 29, 2015 – September 4, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association is joined for a Capitol Watch discussion on the latest developments in the state budget crisis by Neal Lesher from the National Federation of Independent Business-PA and by Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on the rise of Donald Trump

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Jim Phillips of the Heritage Foundation about the proposed nuclear deal with Iran
  • Doug Sachtleben of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on style over substance in the presidential campaign
  • Eric Boehm gets details from Jonathan Wood of the Pacific Legal Center on the EPA gone rogue on this week’s Watchdog Radio Report
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on the suddenly competitive race for the Democratic Presidential nomination

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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Trump Card


It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a summer romance turns into a permanent relationship.  That may be the case with Donald Trump whose summer surge has propelled him to the front of the herd seeking the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.

Conventional wisdom (which is often wrong) for weeks has put Trump in the same category as Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich and others who four years ago took turns rocketing to the top of the polls only to fall and be replaced by the next candidate who caught the voters’ fancy.  But that race also featured the formidable campaign operation of Mitt Romney who played an electoral version of wack-a-mole to pick off anyone who gained traction against him.  This year no one – yet – appears capable of taking down Trump.

At first Donald Trump appeared to be just another passing fad.  He is a commanding presence and used his celebrity to launch his campaign feeding the narrative that this was just another PR ploy.  But there is an old adage among public speakers that to get people to hear your message you must first get their attention.  Nobody is better than Trump at getting attention, and now he is delivering his message.

The Republican Party establishment, mainstream news media and even the conservative punditry all initially wrote Trump off as a side show.  As Trump whipped off a series of decidedly not politically correct broadsides against illegal aliens, John McCain, and Meghan Kelly, the tongues wagged that he had gone too far and was set to implode.

The implosion never happened.  Instead, Trump has risen in the polls the most recent of which show him suddenly competitive in the General Election against the once-invincible candidate who is imploding, Hillary Clinton.  Trump, it seems, can – and does – say whatever he wants and voters flock to him.  He has almost literally pushed the other 16 candidates off the stage.  On a recent night both Trump and Jeb Bush hosted town hall meetings in New Hampshire.  Trump spoke before a raucous crowd of over 2,000; Bush talked with a couple hundred people many of whom appeared to be borderline comatose.

Trump has succeeded in becoming the dominant figure in the 2016 Presidential race because he has refused to play by the rules.  And that is a good thing because the rulebook has been written by the Left and by design puts Republicans in general and conservatives in particular on the defensive.  Trump refuses to be defensive – he is always on the attack.

Accuse Trump of flip-flopping on issues?  No problem, the rules don’t apply.  Accuse Trump of insulting women?  No problem, the rules don’t apply.  Accuse Trump of insulting illegal aliens?  No problem, the rules don’t apply.  The political class says he is a passing fad? No problem, the rules don’t apply.

It has become crystal clear Americans of all political stripes feel the nation is off track and someone has to, as Trump would put it “make America great again.”  That is the nature of Bernie Sanders’ appeal to the Left, and Trump’s appeal to GOP voters. The difference is Sanders’ policy solutions won’t play with a broader swath of the electorate.  But with Trump voters see an ultra-successful businessman who has gotten things done and they believe he can make good on his promise to lead the nation back to greatness.

So Trump has again succeeded where all others have failed.  He has the attention of the voters, and is putting forth solid – if controversial – policy solutions.  But winning a presidential nomination requires an extensive organization that collects a majority of the delegates who will assemble in Cleveland the summer next.  That is Trump’s challenge: converting popularity into delegates.  He also must overcome the fact that while he leads the race, more voters have a negative opinion of him than those who have a positive one, making it difficult to build upon his base of support.

Trump, of course, is accustomed to building things.  His current project is a mammoth hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. midway between the Capitol and the White House.  If he can capitalize on his current front-runner status, Donald Trump may acquire some additional real estate a few blocks down the street.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.   His e-mail address islhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Kingmaker? Pennsylvania’s Delegation Influential in a Brokered Convention


Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, held in late April after more than half of the other states have already voted, means residents of Penn’s Woods generally have little impact on the selection of the nominees of the two major political parties.  Legislation has been proposed to move the primary to an earlier date, however, it is unlikely to happen in time to take effect for 2016.

But, there is a scenario in which Pennsylvania’s delegation to next year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio could play a major role in the selection of the nominee.  That would be if the primary season fails to yield a candidate with a majority of delegate votes triggering a rare brokered convention.

In recent decades the quadrennial nominating conventions have been little more than stage managed coronations of the candidates who already had collected enough delegate votes through the primary and caucus process.  The last time a convention really mattered was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford arrived in Detroit still locked in a battle with Ronald Reagan for the nomination.  Ford prevailed, but was unable to shake off the after effects of the Watergate scandal and lost the General Election to Jimmy Carter.

Prospects for a brokered GOP convention in 2016 grow greater every week.  That’s the frequency with which candidates are entering the presidential contest with 15 or more candidates ultimately expected to compete.  A recent Quinnipiac University poll found five of those candidates – Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee – all tied for the lead with 10% of the vote each.   It could be argued those candidates constitute a top tier, but clearly no one has taken command of the race.

It is, of course, still early in a climate where even one or two news cycles can completely alter the political landscape, but the Republican bench is so deep every one of the top five, and just about all of the others, can lay claim to a base constituency and make the argument that they are qualified to become the next president.  Few, however, can outline a plausible path to the nomination.

The winnowing process could still occur, especially if one candidate manages to win two out of three of the earliest contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then go on to dominate the so-called Super Tuesday primaries.  But, 15 candidates with diverse geographic and ideological bases within the party presage a Balkanization of the vote and the allocation of delegates.

If the Republican Party arrives in Cleveland with no one candidate having a majority of votes, a quirk in Pennsylvania’s delegate rules could put the commonwealth’s delegation in a strong position to be the king-maker.  Unlike most other states, all of Pennsylvania’s delegates run uncommitted.  Republican delegates are elected by congressional district, with an additional group selected by the Republican State Committee.  Pennsylvania will have 71 delegate votes, making it the seventh largest delegation.  While candidates for delegate can express support for a particular presidential candidate, they are not legally bound to vote for that candidate at the convention.

This means Pennsylvania’s delegation will arrive on the shores of Lake Erie technically uncommitted to any of the candidates and free to wheel and deal with potential nominees.  Assuming any degree of unity among the delegation, Pennsylvania’s delegate votes could be enough to put a candidate over the top or at least provide major momentum in a brokered scenario.

It would take all the stars aligning for this to play out, but in a year where there are an unprecedented number of candidates participating in a long string of primaries and caucuses anything is possible.  If it does come down to a brokered convention Pennsylvania might once again become the Keystone State.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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PA GOP National Convention Delegation: Government An Adversarial Force


Ninety-eight percent of delegation is conservative, just 2% moderate

“Our rights come from nature and God, not from government. That’s who we are. That’s how we built this country. That’s who we are. That’s what made us great. That’s our founding. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.”

Those were among the first words spoken by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin upon becoming Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate. Those few sentences cut to the core principles upon which America was founded and resonated with a Republican Party base longing to rekindle the fervor of the Reagan years.

A Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research survey of Pennsylvania Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention found Ryan’s words struck a chord. Ninety-eight percent of those responding to the survey agreed that our basic rights as Americans are God-given, while just 2% felt such rights were granted by government.

The Pennsylvania delegation also strongly views the Federal government as part of the problem, not part of the solution, with 90% saying the federal government is an adversarial force, and the rest believing the federal government is a positive force.

National Issues

In terms of the issues facing our nation, Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation rated the most serious problems as: the economy, federal government spending, federal budget deficit, Obamacare, and the unemployment rate.   Rated as the least serious issues were global warming, gay marriage, the mortgage/banking crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and abortion.

Pennsylvania’s GOP delegates/alternate delegates were strongly united in their view that the Obama Administration’s foreign policies have made the United States less secure with 89% holding that opinion. Even more, 92% disapproved of the President’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. There is less agreement on two other pressing foreign policy issues. Seventy-three percent think the United States should intervene militarily in Syria, but 28% disagree. Sixty-one percent believe America should intervene militarily to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, with 39% in disagreement.

On no issue, however, is there more agreement among the delegation than on the economy. Unanimously, 100% view the economy as off in the wrong direction. And, 93% place the blame squarely on President Barack Obama. Sixty-one percent also fault congress, and 59% place blame on the Federal Reserve. Twenty-six percent hold former President George W. Bush culpable for the nation’s economic ills.

Speaking of the former president, 70% of Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation believes the Bush-era tax rates should be made permanent for all Americans regardless of income. Nine percent want the tax rates made permanent for families earning under $250,000 per year. Another 13% think the Bush era tax rates should be temporarily extended for all Americans. Only 4% support reinstating the pre-Bush tax cut rates. The delegation is split over the future of the payroll (Social Security) tax cuts. Forty-eight percent favors extending the Obama payroll tax cuts, 52% oppose any extension. Wide agreement returns among the delegates on the subject of cutting rates on capital gains, with 83% supporting such cuts. Eighty-nine percent supports eliminating the estate or “death tax” entirely, while 7% favor cutting the rate.   Ninety-three percent of the delegation supports lowering personal income tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth.

Spending cuts are the weapon of choice for balancing the federal budget. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention favors spending cuts only to reduce the deficit. Another 26% support a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Not a single respondent supported only raising taxes to reduce the deficit. There is also strong opposition to raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling. Ninety-six percent oppose raising it. Unanimity among the delegates was also achieved on the issue of allowing younger Americans to invest a portion of their Social funds in personal savings accounts outside the current Social Security system, with 100% in agreement. Sixty-seven percent think Social Security will be around for future generations of Americans, but with substantial changes. Thirty-four percent believe the system is headed for bankruptcy.

Seventy percent of the delegation supports term limits on members of Congress, while 30% oppose term limits. A sizable majority of the delegation, 81%, also believes that earmarks, or specific spending directed by Members of Congress, are wasteful spending. Twenty-three percent feel earmarks are an appropriate way to allocate funds.

State Issues

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research also asked the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention their views on a range of state issues.

On the subject of taxes, 58% said that the state personal income tax rate is too high, 39% say it is about right, and 6% say personal income tax rates are too low. However, 92% of the respondents said business taxes are too high, and 8% said they are about right. Nobody thought business taxes were too low. Seventy-five percent said they would not support an increase in the state gasoline tax to fund infrastructure (highway) improvements. Twenty-five percent would back higher taxes for that purpose. Sixty-percent also oppose an increase in vehicle registration and/or driver license fees for highway improvements. Forty percent said they could support increasing fees for such a purpose.

Seventy-one percent of the delegation said they feel the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, counties and local government to fund services is unfair to most segments of their community. Twenty-nine percent see property taxes as fair. Fifty percent of the delegates/alternate delegates participating in the poll said they would favor a more broad based state sales tax at the current rate as a means of replacing real estate or property taxes. Twenty-six percent said they would support replacing property taxes with a combination of local sales and earned income taxes while 18% percent would back local sales taxes only. Another 13% would support increasing the state sales tax rate to replace property taxes.

In terms of public education; 65% of the delegation feel the Corbett Administration’s cuts in K-12 public education are about right; 19% say they are not deep enough and 17% say the cuts are too deep. Eighty-six percent of the delegation supports the concept of school choice when that involves giving vouchers or grants so that students can attend a public school in a district other than their own.

There is also concern over the level of the Commonwealth’s indebtedness. Ninety-six percent of the state’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention believes the commonwealth’s debt load is currently too high. Another four percent say debt levels are about right. When it comes to Pennsylvania’s general fund budget, 63% say overall state spending is too high, 35% believe it is about right, and 2% say it is too low.

Labor power issues have been at the top of the agenda in many states. Ninety-six percent of Pennsylvania’s national convention delegates and alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, meaning that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a labor union. Eighty percent support a ban on allowing public school teachers to strike.

Finally, there was unanimous opinion behind a proposal to privatize the state’s liquor store system. Eighty-four percent of the delegation strongly supports such a ban, with 16% somewhat in favor.

Ideology

When asked their political ideology, not a single member of the Pennsylvania Delegation to the Republican National Convention admitted to being a liberal, with just one claiming to be a moderate. Ninety-eight percent of the delegation labeled themselves conservative, with 58% saying there are very conservative.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted its survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention electronically from August 14, 2012 thru August 22, 2012. A total of 56 members of the delegation participated in the poll. Complete numeric results are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org

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