The Scintillating Argument Over Non-Binding Primaries Continues!

The Scintillating Argument Over Non-Binding Primaries Continues!

The Scintillating Argument Over Non-Binding Primaries Continues!

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 8 2012 12:28 PM

The Scintillating Argument Over Non-Binding Primaries Continues!

Dave Helling does yeoman work trying to convince me and the world that Missouri's "beauty contest" actually mattered. He even illustrates it with a picture of some slate! And before I answer him, I should give the Romney campaign its rightful Marvel No-Prize for putting this image on the web site's mostly inactive Missouri page.

Screen shot 2012-02-08 at 12.04.52 PM

Still, that's the only evidence I've seen of the Romney campaign acknowledging that there's a state between Iowa and Arkansas. Helling

[Republicans] in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado, essentially graft a straw poll on top of normal county-wide party-building meetings. The results provide a rough picture of support among party activists, but aren't binding AT ALL.
Want proof? In 2008 Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses by nine points. John McCain was fourth.
Who got all of Iowa's 40 convention delegates? McCain.

We're comparing apples and kumquats. First: I wrote that the caucuses in each state essentially started the delegate process in the states. They do. In Minnesota, for example, Republicans chose their delegates to "Basic Political Organization Unit" conventions. For the first time this cycle, there are Republicans in the state empowered to go to the conventions that will decide the delegates to conventions that decide the overall delegates. Confusing, yes, and no, not as clear as the Democratic process in 2008. But not totally non-binding. Second: In 2008, 41 percent of the GOP's delegates were chosen by the time Super Tuesday was over. This year, it's less than 6 percent.

Back to Helling:

With three contests Tuesday, ALL non-binding on convention delegates, which should matter most:
The one where 65,000 people voted?
The one where 48,000 people voted?
Or the one where 326,000 people voted (250K in the GOP primary)?

Why choose any of them? The Missouri beauty contest drew 253,308 voters. In 2008, when it counted for delegates, the Missouri GOP primary drew 618,844 voters. What can an election with 41 percent of the turnout of the last election tell us? Not too much, especially when 1) not all candidates filed to get on the ballot and 2) only one candidate campaigned there.

Look, if Mitt Romney was experiencing some Bush 2000/Kerry 2004 surge, he'd have done better in these states. But that doesn't meant that the results have much more to teach us. Ask the winner of the 2008 Minnesota and Colorado caucuses: A guy who lost the GOP nomination.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.