Counting the cost of an election

Cost of living by state

The cost of living data comes from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index for 2011 (the most current data available). The political makeup of state governments comes from Wikipedia’s list of United States state legislatures and list of current United States governors and represents the years 2011-2012.

Nebraska is excluded because its legislature is non-partisan. The District of Columbia calculation for % Democratic leaning uses the city council in place of both the upper and lower houses and the mayor in place of the governor.

$1.00 represents the average cost of living in the United States as a whole. Most states are subdivided into multiple areas and the cost of living calculated for each individual area. In this chart, the solid points are the median cost of all areas within a state. The error bars denote the highest and lowest cost areas within the state. The most extreme example of varied costs in a state is New York, where the median is $1.13, but the highest (New York City) is over $2.20.

Taxes are not included in the cost of living index. We can infer from this chart that including them would only make the differentiation larger.

Santorum’s Dream — Santorum’s Bane

On Monday, Rick Santorum’s campaign published its “new delegate math.” Their delegate counts show the gap between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney much smaller than what the Associated Press publishes. An article at ABC News summarizes how the campaign figures its numbers. Their numbers would change my previous chart to something like this:


Recall that candidates above the dashed line are ahead of the delegate count to get the nomination; candidates below the line are behind. Santorum uses his numbers to contend that the GOP is heading for a brokered convention.

The Santorum campaign assumes that the Republican National Committee will force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates proportional to the statewide vote. There are two major flaws with this assumption. First, the RNC already penalized Florida and Arizona for their early winner-take-all elections by taking away half of their delegates. If the RNC were to force the states to allocate their delegates proportionally, the RNC would have to give back the penalized portion. Second, most states that allocate their delegates proportionally do it by congressional district, awarding all delegates per district to the winner within the district. It is a winner-take-all by district allocation.

So, let’s assume that the RNC does force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates proportionally, and that by doing so they give them back their penalized delegates. Further assume that the states then allocate those delegates proportionally the same way the other states do, giving them out winner-take-all by congressional district. (Two big assumptions, but more reasonable than Santorum’s). How do the results change? Not the way Santorum assumes, and certainly not in a way he would like. Romney would still win all of Arizona’s 58 delegates since he won in every congressional district. Romney would get 84 of Florida’s delegates and Gingrinch would get 16. The net effect is that Romney would increase his lead over Santorum and Gingrinch would close the gap between himself and Santorum. And my chart would look like this:

Math is his bane.

Santorum’s dream could become his bane.

Delegate Countdown

It's the math, stupid!

Candidates above the dashed line are ahead of the delegate count to get the nomination; candidates below the line are behind.

Picking up 69% of the remaining delegates is a tall order, especially when you’ve only gathered 26% of those currently allocated. This explains why Santorum wants to come up with his own recounts, especially his creative option of forcing Florida and Arizona to proportionally allocate their delegates. He claims they need to do it to follow Republican National Committee rules. The fact is that they were already penalized half of their delegates for holding their winner-take-all elections early. If the RNC reallocates them proportionally, then they should give back the half that they took away. They would also have to permit the States to come up with their own proportional allocation, which does not always go directly by statewide voting totals. Many states use county level or congressional district level allocation, which is considered proportional. Many proportional states also do hybrids. Bottom line, Santorum really can’t win this unless he pulls off a backroom deal with the establishment — though clearly a different establishment than the one he claims is throwing this to Romney.