As has been widely reported, people are beginning to question the results from yesterday’s Washington state Republican caucus, which WSRP Chair Luke Esser officially called in favor of John McCain by the narrowest of margins. And with official returns remaining frozen at 87.5% of precincts reporting, no wonder conspiracy theories are starting to flourish.
Unlike the Democrats, the WSRP has failed to post county-by-county numbers, and likewise, few county GOP organizations have publicly reported results. But while this frustrates efforts at more in depth analysis, it does raise some questions about the relevance of the numbers already reported.
For example, while statewide results show McCain with a slight lead, results posted in both Cowlitz, Clark and Franklin counties show the putative front runner getting his ass kicked, coming in fourth behind Huckabee, Romney and Paul in various orders, while incomplete results from Pierce County shows a very close race. So where did McCain garner his lead?
The WSRP website only reports percentages, but FOX News reports precinct delegate totals (from where they get their data, hell if I know,) showing McCain with a mere 242 delegate lead over Huckabee, 3,468 to 3,226. Quite clearly, McCain owes his apparent victory to King County, where he relatively thumped Huckabee 1,321 to 798, for a 523 delegate advantage.
Okay… it’s not so unusual for population dense King County to sway a statewide election, but hidden in these numbers is a question nobody else seems to have asked: is a precinct delegate from King County equivalent to a precinct delegate from Cowlitz county in terms of the number of voters they represent, and the influence they have on the final, state delegate allocation? And the answer, apparently, is “No.”
Accord to Rule 2 of the WSRP’s Caucus and Convention Rules:
Each county shall determine for its convention the minimum number of potential delegates provided that each county shall allocate among the precincts a number of potential delegates to be elected which is at least two (2) times the number of precincts in its county. Automatic delegates under Rule 14 shall be in addition to the number of delegates allowed for election under this rule.
What that means is that each county organization is free to allocate as many potential delegates to their county convention as they want, as long as that number is at least twice the number of precincts. This makes the statewide precinct delegate count as reported by the WSRP virtually meaningless, as the relative value of a precinct delegate is simply not comparable from county to county.
One thing we can discern from the numbers though is that Republican turnout does not appear to have been as universally robust as party officials have claimed. So far, the only county party I’ve found to have published their potential delegate allocation was Thurston County, with a potential 624 county convention delegates (not including automatic delegates) apportioned amongst their 299 precincts; how many of these were actually allocated yesterday, we don’t yet know. But in King County we do know that only 4195 delegates were allocated amongst its 2,555 precincts, 915 fewer than the absolute minimum number of potential delegates that would have been made available under party rules. Likewise, Franklin County allocated only 118 delegates amongst its 93 precincts, leaving at a bare minimum, 36% of potential delegates unallocated.
How does this happen? A KCGOP insider explained that at some precincts, no one showed up, while at others, not enough people showed up to fill all the delegate slots; it’s “not unusual at all” he told me. Almost a thousand delegates at least went unallocated for want of caucus goers in King and Franklin counties alone, and possibly many, many more than that — we can’t know for sure until we know the actual number of potential delegates available. That’s not exactly consistent with claims of high voter turnout.
Or maybe, turnout was as heavy as party officials claim, in which case King County might be the first place Huckabee’s lawyers might want to look for missing delegates?
Chelan County allocated 170 delegates yesterday, exactly double the number of their 85 precincts. FYI, Huckabee beat McCain 25% to 22%.
The WSRP just updated their results page. McCain leads Huckabee 25.4% to 23.8% with 93.3% of precincts reporting. Or so they say.
UPDATE [Lee]: This Sound Politics public blog post from Friday by Mike McGavick’s former New Media Director, Tim Goddard, gives some insight into the mindset of GOP insiders here over the fact that McCain has so little support from the Republican base. After reading his “Point One” and “Point Two”, it should be abundantly clear why Mike Huckabee is suspicious over what happened yesterday.