On To the Convention!

Jason Bello, Robert Y. Shapiro
Content Type
Journal Article
Political Science Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Spring 2008
Academy of Political Science
The 2008 primary campaigns started earlier than ever before. The focus of the press, pundits, and academics was on how the candidates were going out early to gain support, to raise money, and to build momentum. At the start, and even by late summer (six months after most candidates announced their intentions to run), no commentators—or anyone—spoke or wrote about the rules regarding delegate selection or their implications for the campaign. This is not surprising, given that it has been 80 years since an election with no incumbent or early front-runner in either major party and that the last primary contest to make it to the convention undecided was the 1976 Republican race. Even more striking, there has not been a primary with multiple balloting at the convention since the 1952 Democratic contest. Nonetheless, because we noticed that both major parties had several strong candidates emerge early on, we wanted to see if the rules could help us predict the likelihood of going to the convention with the results undecided (which only occurs when no candidate has secured a majority of the available delegates—1,191 delegates on the Republican side and 2,025 delegates on the Democratic side). Simply getting hold of the data to answer this question was extremely difficult at that time. When we called states looking for their delegate selection plans in August, most party leaders that we spoke with told us that the plans had not been written yet, while several others were surprised that anyone was asking about them, and a handful did not know how their states apportioned their delegates at all. Everyone was happy to tell us how to become a delegate (beginning by filling out a form of intention), but few were able to tell us what that meant (are the delegates bound to the primary or caucus results and in what way?).
Political Geography
New York