Tonight: Two debates and one caucus

In just a few hours, Wyoming Republicans will vote in their own presidential caucus and choose 12 delegates — as many as New Hampshire (check Mr. Rational’s excellent comment for an explanation of how delegate allocation works and how a small state like WY can have as many delegates). The date is not sanctioned by the RNC but then again neither was Iowa’s January 3rd or New Hampshire January 8th.

The caucuses are getting pretty much no attention at all making it likely that no one will hear about the results — and since there has been no polling whatsoever, it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen. Three candidates have apparently put some kind of distant effort to try and carry the state: Mitt Romney (via Rep. Cubin), Fred Thompson and… Duncan Hunter. If Romney or Thompson win Wyoming, they will surely boast about it on the trail. After all, Romney wanted to win an early state, so why not Whyoming? And it could give some rationale to Thompson (something like, “In true red states, we are the best candidates”). We’ll see if the press devotes any time at all to mentioning it.

And at 7pm ET, we have the presidential New Hampshire presidential debates sponsored by ABC and… Facebook. (Could someone explain what Facebook has got to do with the presidential election?) Republicans kick it off, and Democrats will start at 9pm, on the same stage (ABC appears very proud that the candidates from both parties will be forced to mingle together for a few minutes). There will be 4 Democratic candidates (Kucinich and Gravel have been excluded) and 6 Republican candidates (all but Hunter). Prior to the caucuses, word was that ABC would only select the top four from Iowa but they appear to not be respecting that on the GOP side. It wouldn’t have cost them a lot to pick up Kucinich as well, then, who got about 2% in entrance polls in Iowa, roughly on par with Giuliani’s final results.

This is naturally a big night for Hillary Clinton: She has to stop Obama’s momentum, and she wil likely be throwing some sharp blows to the Iowa victor. Clinton is usually better than Obama in debates — the one time she stumbled, in Philadelphia, was due to the entire field attacking and destabilizing her. And keep in mind this is the first time that Obama is the front-runner during a debate, which is a huge change of dynamic: Usually Clinton tries to stay on top of things and present herself as inevitable, and Obama is likely to play that card today. The big question: Who will John Edwards and Bill Richardson go after, and who will they help? Edwards has been throwing increasingly pointed jabs at Obama, but he has traditionally hit Clinton much harder. If Edwards’s hope is to get second place in New Hampshire, he needs to sink Clinton even further — so look for him to try and do that. As for Richardson, he had long come to Clinton’s rescue in debates; but he is now an Obama ally after the (very shady and unethically secret) deal he made with Barack in Iowa on Thursday. Will he keep up his shifted alliance today?

In the Republican debate, it’s anyone’s guess how the dynamics will play out. Thompson does not want to be in New Hampshire, Giuliani doesn’t want to either. Huckabee doesn’t even know if he has any chance, and most of the action will clearly be between John McCain and Mitt Romney. If both candidates are true to their words on the trail over the past 2-3 weeks, it could get ugly as they have exchanged some pretty vicious comments, for example on McCain’s age.

4 Responses to “Tonight: Two debates and one caucus”


  1. 1 Mr. Rational

    Well, if you don’t understand, ask Mr. Rational, I always say. In the normal course of things, Wyoming would have 28 delegates and New Hampshire 24 in the Republican nominating process. (Both totals have been halved through party sanctions because their contests are held ahead of the earliest acceptable date, so Wyoming now gets 14–12 of which will be selected tonight–and New Hampshire 12, all of whom will be apportioned through the primary.)

    So why does Wyoming have more delegates? Easy…they’re a more Republican state. In the Republican process, each state gets three automatic delegates–their national committeepeople and their state party chair. They also get ten at-large delegates regardless of size. They get three more for each congressional district they have. Finally, they get bonus delegates for having Republican U.S. Senators, governors, a majority-GOP congressional delegation, a GOP-controlled state legislature (partial or total), and having voted for GWB in 2004.

    As you can see, Wyoming has a base of 16 delegates (three party delegates, ten at-large, and three for their sole congressional district) and New Hampshire a base of 19 (they have two congressional districts). But Wyoming gets far more bonus delegates than New Hampshire does, thus elevating its delegate count higher. It’s a system designed to maximize influence from two groups…large states that have more people, and Republican states that are more in-tune with the party. So if you ever wondered why Texas seems to have such a stranglehold on the GOP, wonder no longer–it fits in both groups.

  2. 2 Mr. Rational

    Also, ABC’s debate mandated them to take: the top four from Iowa, regardless of percentage; anyone who was polling above 5% nationally (which lets in Giuliani); and anyone who was polling above 5% in New Hampshire (which lets in Paul). It wasn’t that hard for me to find the answer to your question.

    http://mashable.com/2008/01/03/facebook-abc-debates-controversy/

  3. 3 Taniel

    Mr. Rational,
    Indeed I didn’t put in much time to research it apparently given how much there is to cover today. Thanks for updates. I still think the exclusion is pretty arbitrary especially when they are basically just throwing out one person at this point. And someone who represents the sensibilities of a whole wing of the party in a way other excluded candidates don’t (since it seems Biden and Dodd would also have been excluded).

  4. 4 Mr. Rational

    Actually, Taniel, they pitched out three: Gravel, Hunter, and Kucinich. But given the way the debates seemed to flow tonight, I’m actually glad of the exclusions. It made for a better atmosphere, while not excluding anyone who was viable either nationally or in New Hampshire.

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