Understanding Michigan's Delegate Math

Forget the final vote totals on Tuesday night, it is the delegate math that matters in the Wolverine State GOP presidential primary. The New York Times' Nate Silver explains:

Twenty-eight of the 30 delegates in Michigan’s Republican primary will be awarded, two at a time, to the winner in each of the state’s 14 Congressional districts; only two will go to the candidate who takes the most votes statewide.

There are competing theories about just whom this might favor. One hypothesis holds that although Mitt Romney might dominate in Detroit’s wealthy suburbs, he is either an underdog or no better than even money against Rick Santorum pretty much everywhere else in the state. Since winning a district by 20 percentage points does you no more good in the delegate count than winning one  by 2 points, that means Mr. Romney could have some wasted votes.

The other theory holds that Mr. Romney’s voters tend to be concentrated in districts where turnout will be low. This is not necessarily a reflection of subpar enthusiasm for his campaign; instead, it’s because some of these wealthy suburban areas are paired with cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor that vote heavily Democratic. Therefore, Mr. Romney could win a Congressional district where 15,000 people turn out to vote in the Republican primary, but lose another one where 75,000 do. But both count equally on the delegate scoreboard.

Which of these two theories is liable to prevail? If you go through the state’s Congressional districts one at a time, it looks as if both have some merit.

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published this page in In The News 2012-02-27 23:00:00 -0500
Analysis & Political Strategy