There is no such thing as the Texas Primary, Part I

(Cross posted at Election Inspection)

Over the next month or so, you will hear many people talk about the "Texas Primary," to be held on March 4. I am here to let you in on a little secret - there is no such thing as the Texas Primary.

On the night of March 4, CNN and MSNBC will announce to the world that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has won the Texas Primary, on the basis of the statewide popular vote.

What There Isn't

There is no Statewide primary. Absolutely no delegates will be awarded on the basis of the statewide vote. That is 0 delegates. None.

Barack Obama could "win Texas" by 10%, by racking up large margins in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, by maintaining his strong margins among African American voters, and by holding Clinton to the ~20% victories among Hispanics that she won in New Mexico and Arizona, as opposed to the ~33% victory she won among Hispanics in California.

Hillary Clinton could also "win Texas" by 10%, by taking California sized support among Hispanics, by limiting Obama's margins in Texas' multiple large cities, and with the help of rural and small town voters in East and West Texas.

What There Is

On March 4, 32 seperate elections will be held in Texas. There will be:

  • 1) 31 State Senate District Primaries

  • 2) The Texas Caucuses

31 State Senate District Primaries


Collectively, 126 delegates will be allocated in 31 seperate primary elections in every one of Texas' 31 State Senate Districts. The vast majority of these Districts (24 districts) have only 3 or 4 delegates, and with fewer exceptions than a one armed man has fingers will split 2-2 and 2-1. There is also one district in West Texas with only 2 delegates, which will surely split 1-1. There are 6 districts with 5 to 8 delegates, which are all located either in Metro Houston, in Dallas-Fort Worth, or in Austin (there are no > 4 delegate districts in San Antonio).

The number assigned to each State Senate District were allocated proportionally by each State Senate Districts' average vote for John Kerry in 2004 and for Chris Bell (Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate) in 2006. One interesting thing about this is that when Chris Bell ran for Governor, he was running not only against Rick Perry, but also againste Carole Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, both of whom drew strong independent support. As a result, Bell's votes were especially concentrated in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and to a slightly lesser extent San Antonio, where much of the traditional Democratic base lives.

The Texas Caucuses

While there is no Statewide Texas Primary, there is a Statewide Texas Caucus, which will allocate 67 delegates 42 of these ("At Large Delegates") will ultimately come from precinct caucuses, while 25 will be PLEOs: party/elected officials. PLEOs will be pledged delegates, not superdelegates, so in practical terms they amount to the same thing. These caucuses will occur on the precinct level, and are similar to the Iowa Caucuses - except practically nobody knows that they exist.

With the exception of parts of the Rio Grande Valley, there is no Democratic Political Machine in Texas. In much of the State, there is very little Democratic Party infrastructure, and very few precinct captains. In short, whichever campaign organizes more succesfully will win the Texas caucuses. There is little existing organization that the campaigns can tap into, which means that organization will have to come from the campaigns and from the grassroots. This is why the Obama campaign has already announced that it will open 10 field offices in Texas, and why the Clinton campaign will surely do likewise. Grassroots Obama activists currently have 78 events scheduled within 100 mile radii of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, while grassroots Hillary activists only have 5 events scheduled in the same geographical space. Grassroots Obama activists independent of the campaign also have opened offices on their own in Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

The Texas Caucuses will operate on 3 levels:

  • 1) Precinct Caucuses

  • 2) State Senate District/County Caucuses

  • 3) State Convention Caucus
1) Precinct Caucuses will be held in every precinct in Texas at 7:15 after the polls close. If the caucuses were held today, I imagine that in the vast majority of precincts literally nobody would show up, because nobody knows about them. For every 15 votes that Chris Bell received in a given precinct, that precinct is entitled to send 1 delegate to the State Senate District/County Caucuses.

2) At the State Senate District/County Caucuses (March 29th), one delegate will be elected to the State Convention Caucus for every 12 precinct delegates. My understanding after reading the rules is that this is a strict cutoff without rounding, which means that a precinct with 12 precinct delegates (180-194 Chris Bell voters) will send the same number of delegates to the State convention as a precinct with 23 precinct delegates (345-359 Chris Bell voters) - both send 1 delegate, while a precinct with 361 Chris Bell voters would send 2 delegates to the State Convention. Precincts with fewer than 12 precinct delegates will be combined.

3) At the Texas State Convention (June 6th & 7th in Austin), Texas' delegates to the National Democratic Convention will finally be assigned. 67 Delegates will be awarded proportionally among the caucus delegates that came from all the State Senate District/County Caucuses. So supposing that Obama gets 2/3 of those State Senate District/County Caucus Delegates, he would end up with 2/3 of the "At Large Delegates" and 2/3 of the PLEO delegates. That would mean that Obama would get 28 of 42 At Large Delegates, and Obama would get 17 of the 25 PLEO Delegates. In sum, that scenario would result in 45 Caucus-derived delegates for Obama, and 18 Caucus-derived delegates for Clinton.

I will post detailed projections of how the pledged delegates assigned by all of the 31 Senatorial Districts will likely end up being allocated tomorrow.

If you enjoyed this post and are an Obama supporter (or even if you are not! :D ), please consider sending Obama a donation to help Turn Texas Bluebama!

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Tags: texas (all tags)



Re: There is no such thing as the Texas Primary

My goodness. Thanks for the information. The more I learn about this entire nomination process, the more ludicrous the whole thing is.

To take another example, Washington state is having its caucus tomorrow, but it is also having a primary on Feb. 19, in which mail-in ballots will be used. On the Democratic side, all of the delegates will come from the caucuses, while on the GOP side, it's split between the two. Some people are worried that some voters will have already sent in their primary ballots and think they're done--not realizing they also have to caucus. What a mess.

by OrangeFur 2008-02-08 12:49PM | 0 recs

by OrangeFur 2008-02-08 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: There is no such thing as the Texas Primary, P

Thanks for sharing this.  I have little doubt that Barack Obama will rack up delegates in Texas out of proportion to the popular vote he achieves there, as he has so far.  And I have little doubt that Hillary Clinton will end up with super delegates out of proportion to her pledged delegates, as she has so far.  I guess what's good for  the goose is good for the gander.

by markjay 2008-02-08 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: There is no such thing

Could they make it anymore complicated?  This entire system is in need of a major overhaul.

by musicpvm 2008-02-08 01:33PM | 0 recs


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