The proportional nature of the early GOP primary contests between February 1st and March 12th will have a significant impact on the 2016 Presidential Race. Each state and territory has rules dictating procedures how delegates are chosen, how they are allocated, and how they are bound to a candidate. Of the 28 contests in this window, the first four were allowed to decide whether to be winner-take-all or proportional. The remaining 24 before March 15 are all proportional.
The lower the threshold for a candidate to be considered for a delegate, the more likely a state’s delegation will be split between a larger number of candidates. States with no thresholds or low thresholds are Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, and Hawaii (all without a threshold); Massachusetts and Kentucky (5% threshold); Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota (all 10%); and Alaska (13%). These states with a combined 323 delegates.
States and territories with higher thresholds – Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Mississippi (all 15%); and Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Puerto Rico, and Idaho (all 20%) – are likely to see their delegates awarded to a smaller number of candidates, probably leading to the demise of some hopefuls. These states have a combined total of 629 delegates.
Once “Super Tuesday” arrives on the Ides of March, states can award all of their delegates to the candidate with the highest vote share, either on a statewide or congressional district basis. This will probably narrow the field to just a few candidates, perhaps quite rapidly, though some states will continue to award delegates on a proportional basis.
Here are two charts, one showing the number of delegates by winner-take-all and proportional through March 14 and a second showing the pattern for March 15 and after.