2.15.2008

The Texas hybrid: Polls and explanation

With Texas and Ohio coming up rapidly, we had been curiously deprived of polls from the Lone Star State. But two surveys out this morning confirm that Clinton is in good shape to win the state -- but will she manage to be ahead in the delegate count?

  • An IRV poll has Hillary Clinton ahead 49% to 41%, relying on a strong showing among Hispanics (63%).
  • A Rasmussen poll looks even better for Clinton, as she is ahead 54% to 38%. Without providing numbers, Rasmussen does say Clinton is ahead among Latinos, so Obama has not yet been able to contest her advantage there.
  • Update: As always, ARG comes out with a poll that looks like an outlier. The only institute that has Wisconsin going Clinton (+9), ARG is now the only one that has Texas leaning Obama in its new poll: 48% to 42%. Clinton is ahead among registered Dems and Obama gets all his lead among indies.
  • Among Republicans, IRV has McCain leading only 45% to 41% in what is Huckabee's best chance to embarrass the party's frontrunner. Rasmussen shows McCain ahead 45% to 37%.
More than two weeks before Ohio and Texas, baseline polls in both show that Clinton could win them and survive to fight in Pennsylvania, and possibly even win them big. But the question also is whether she can close her pledged delegate deficit significantly, even on March 4th. And this is where Texas's absurdly complex delegate allocation system kicks in.

In a detailed study of the IRV poll, relying on their indications of regional breakdown, Burnt Orange Report explains that Clinton's 8% lead would still give Obama more delegates out of Texas! This is due in great part to the even/odd district particularities we were discussing in the run-up to Super Tuesday, but this time the odd/even district allocation is not due to chance, but to GOP gerrymandering. Let's embark on a quick overview of the Texas process:

(1) Of Texas's 193 pledged delegates, 126 are allocated through the primary. 64 are allocated through a caucus for which voters have to attend their "precinct conventions" after the polls close. The 64 delegates will not be allocated before the June state convention but they will reflect the wishes of the precinct convention (just like in most caucuses, like Iowa).

(2) Texas's delegates are allocated by state senate district, not by congressional district. And each district has a number of delegates according to the turnout in the last election. Now, the last election saw a very high turnout in African-American district but very low in Hispanic ones which means that places where Obama is strong will award relatively more delegates than those that are Clinton strongholds. This is the first problem Clinton faces.

(3) The Texas GOP has gerrymandered the state Senate districts to put as many African-Americans in as few districts as possible (as this article from the Huffington Post explains. This will have major consequences on March 4th. Indeed, many districts only have 4 delegates, which will make it extremely difficult for Clinton to get any sort of delegate lead, since you need to get 62.5% to split those districts 3-1. So after votes are counted in most of the districts, the two candidates could still be close to a tie in delegates, even if Clinton is leading by double-digits in them! But the districts that award the most delegates, especially in Houston, have 7 or 8, and those are the places Obama is hoping to do well in, certainly getting more delegates and perhaps even a lead overall depending on the exact percentages.

Ultimately, will Texas cross the line in absurd delegate plots? In Nevada, Clinton had won by 6% but lost the delegate count 13-12. Obama had then argued that Clinton's support was too concentrated in the Vegas area whereas he had appealed statewide. If Clinton wins by 8% in Texas but loses the delegate count, while winning in most of the state, is that the point at which people start wondering whether the delegate system should be reformed? Can Clinton get some mileage out of it to try and undermine what Obama's pledged delegate count consists in? This would give her an ideal occasion to introduce the popular vote argument, a vote she right now trails in but could come ahead in if she wins Ohio and Texas.

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3 Comments:

  • If Clinton wins Wisconsin it would almost certainly protect her in Ohio and Texas, so Tuesday's results will be very important.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 15:41  

  • One of them has to lose big to make a difference now. It's just too close. If one were to get indicted maybe. Or caught smoking crack in a hotel room.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 18:23  

  • Nice summary!! : )

    By Blogger Jason, At 15 February, 2008 23:31  

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