Opinion: Iowa Caucus Results Insignificant In Big PictureA lot has been made in the press of the dramatic results of the Iowa Caucus held Tuesday night but it really was an insignificant event in the grand scheme of Presidential nominations. That statement is generally true historically but it is even more so this year because of the new delegate rules in effect this election cycle. The candidates and campaigns need to keep this in mind as they make decisions about their strategy.
This year the Republican National Committee has established a new paradigm for selecting the Presidential nominee. They have changed the rules in several ways that dilute the effect of the primaries in the early states. This is particularly ironic because the drama we all endured in setting the primary dates may turn out to be very anticlimactic under the new rules and may even have served to reduce the importance of the early states.
This year all primaries held before April 1, 2012 will assign their delegates to the National Convention to the candidates proportionate to the popular votes they receive in the primary. There are 34 states or territories that will be included in proportional delegate assignments. In other words the winner does not take all the delegates and will not be able to quickly pull away from the rest of the field so the race will stay competitive much longer this year.
Additionally New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Arizona are being penalized by reducing their delegate counts by 50% because they held their primaries before March 6, 2012. So the impact of wins or good results in those states will be even further diluted.
Iowa and New Hampshire are both little states with few delegates to the Republican National Convention; Iowa 28 and New Hampshire 12. (Iowa gets their full allotment of delegates even though they went early because their caucuses are not even binding on the delegates at the Convention.) So right now (January 6, 2012) there are 28 non-committed delegates in play which are distributed thus: Romney has 6, Santorum has 6, Paul has 6, Gingrich has 4 and Perry has 3 the rest are unassigned. Obviously those results are hardly worth mentioning. It is like getting excited because the horse you bet on is ahead by a neck coming out of the gates and there are two other horses right with it.
To put this in perspective there are 2,286 delegates to the convention. The eventual nominee needs a majority, 50% plus one, of the delegates to win. The three leaders coming out of Iowa each have 0.262% of the delegates to be awarded at the convention. It is definitely too early for any of the candidates to beat their chest in victory but it is also too early for candidates to give up on their dream at least to the extent they are basing the decision on the delegate count.
In this age of 24 hour news networks, instant communication and ubiquitous internet access there is an insatiable demand for a story and not just a story but an exciting, history-making story. So when Rick Santorum manages to garner 6 delegates it is breaking news and we have a dogfight between him and Romney. Never mind that Ron Paul also has 6 and Gingrich is only down 2 that is not a story.
Rich Bolen is the Chairman of the Lexington County Republican Party and a candidate for Senate District 18.