It could have been even bigger.
Any state whose primary was held before April in 2004, and opted to hold this year’s primary in April, would gain a 15% bonus on their base delegate total. (It’s spelled out on the first two pages of the party’s call to the convention.) Move your primary from before May 1 to afterwards, and pick up a 30% bonus.
Pennsylvania was best-positioned to pick up a big bonus at little cost.
Instead it settled for April 22, and a 5% bonus.
That cost Pennsylvania 33 extra delegates to the convention
Abe Amoros, executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic party, told me it was up to the legislature to set the primary date. “I have never heard the argument of moving it to May,
Last year, Pennsylvania Democrats debated whether to move their primary up, perhaps to Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. Now it looks like they should have moved the date two weeks back.
With Sen. Barack Obama narrowly leading Sen. Hillary Clinton in delegates after the Ohio and Texas votes (margins vary this morning, as  they usually do, from  86 to  132), Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary looms as the biggest race remaining, with 158 delegates at stake.
It could have been even bigger. The Democratic National Committee, seeking to deter states from moving up their primary dates, set up a system of incentives and penalties that decide how state delegates are allocated. The penalties are well known: The national party  stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates for moving their primary dates to January. The incentives, though, were substantial: Any state whose primary was held before April in 2004, and opted to hold this year’s primary in April, would gain a 15% bonus on their base delegate total. (It’s spelled out on the first two pages of the party’s  call to the convention.) Move your primary from before May 1 to afterwards, and pick up a 30% bonus. There were also far smaller bonuses of 5% and 10% for states that held primaries in April or after May 1, respectively, regardless of their 2004 primary date.
Pennsylvania was best-positioned to pick up a big bonus at little cost. Its 2004 primary  was held on April 27; moving it just four days later would have netted the state a 30% bonus. Instead it  settled for April 22, and a 5% bonus. That cost Pennsylvania 33 extra delegates to the convention. That could be close to the Obama-Clinton margin at that time, depending on superdelegate shifts, how yesterday’s delegate totals settle, and the outcome of contests in the next week in Wyoming and Mississippi.
Pennsylvania isn’t alone; just one state (more on that below) picked up the 15% nor 30% bonus. In fact, while Pennsylvania arguably had the biggest opportunity, it also picked up the second-biggest bonus, of seven delegates. In total, just 54 bonus delegates were awarded for late primaries (they’re represented by the + figures in the district-level and at-large columns of this  delegate-allocation document). Nearly half, 24, went to North Carolina — and that’s a byproduct of 2004 political controversy more than a result of strategic plotting to boost delegate totals. The party scrapped its planned May 4 primary because of legal challenges to the legislature’s redistricting plan and  shifted to an April caucus; the 2000 primary had been held in early May. Yet that 2004 caucus — which was largely irrelevant because John Kerry had  clinched the nomination a month before, and was planned nearly three years before the delegate incentives for 2008  were enacted — nets North Carolina extra delegates numbering more than the entire Wyoming delegation.
In holding its primary this year in May, North Carolina was simply keeping to its statute calling for voting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, Kerra Bolton, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Democratic party, told me. “We just happened to benefit from that,” she said — so much so that North Carolina’s delegation numbers 12 more than that of Super Tuesday state New Jersey despite having 365,000 fewer residents, according to the 2000 Census.
Other states thought they were trading delegates for relevance. Some Pennsylvania politicians, including Gov. Ed Rendell, wanted to move the primary ahead. “I do not believe that Pennsylvanians should be left out of this [candidate selection] process, so I support advancing Pennsylvania’s primary in 2008 to Feb. 5, which will join us with our sister industrial states,” Mr. Rendell said in  a statement last June. Opponents, who successfully thwarted the idea, cited weather, school-board budgets and logistical headaches. But bonus delegates and the possibility that the race would remain undecided in late April didn’t figure as major factors. His state’s continued relevance “was blind luck,”  Mr. Rendell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month.
Abe Amoros, executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic party, told me it was up to the legislature to set the primary date. “I have never heard the argument of moving it to May,” Mr. Amoros said, adding that he was unaware of the potential for more than 30 extra delegates if the state had moved the primary to May. A spokesman for Gov. Rendell didn’t immediately return my call for comment.
Article printed from The Numbers Guy: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy
URL to article: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/pennsylvanias-missed-opportunity-292/
URLs in this post:
 they usually do: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/obama-gains-but-delegate-counters-still-disagree-275/
 86: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/scorecard/#D
 132: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21660914
 stripped Michigan and Florida: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120251551654655203.html
 call to the convention: http://s3.amazonaws.com/apache.3cdn.net/87b58105c024e2d151_bum6be6vb.pdf
 was held: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/elections2004/calendar.html
 settled for April 22: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/nomination-calendar.htm
 delegate-allocation document: http://www.democrats.org/page/-/pdf/20070607_DistrictAllocationChart.pdf
 shifted to an April caucus: http://orangepolitics.org/2004/04/caucus-primer/
 clinched the nomination: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB107835687627045921.html
 were enacted: http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2007/01/23/compressed_2008_primary_calendar_
 a statement: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07166/794357-103.stm
 Mr. Rendell told: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08041/856368-176.stm