The Corner

Count Delegates

Jonah: my piece on that topic is forthcoming.

While I’m at it, let me make a note about those Iowa delegates that people supposedly won. They did not win them. In fact, in the Republican caucuses (in contrast to the Democrats), there is no relationship between the vote count on caucus night and the allegiance of the precinct delegates who are sent to the March 15 county conventions. The vote count you saw from that night is totally non-binding and comes in a secret ballot. The delegates are elected afterward, when many of the caucus-goers have left.

No one really wants to give up a Saturday in March to go to a county convention. No county convention has ever meant anything before — at least in terms of presidential selection — so it has never mattered that the precinct delegates may not match up with the straw vote. But in most precincts, anyone at the caucus willing to volunteer can probably be elected as a delegate. The smarter campaigns made sure that their people hung around and ran as delegates, but there is no way to know for sure whom the delegates will support. Once they get to the convention, they can do whatever they want. For all we know, 90 percent of the precinct delegates are Giuliani supporters who simply bothered to stick around after the vote.

In a momentum race, none of this would matter. A win in Iowa propels you to a few more wins, and before you know it, you’re already the nominee — or so it usually goes. This time, it may be very different. If, as I suspect, there’s no clear winner after Super Tuesday, the remaining, viable campaigns could start going back to Iowa to influence the county, district, and state conventions there. Is that crazy enough for you?

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