It’s good to know that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has a plan to win the Republican nomination. Reading about his excellent plan, it occurred to me that it’s about time for us to bone up on the actual rules of the Republican nominating process. If we take, for example, the Iowa caucuses, the rules are not the same for Democrats and Republicans. They also seem to change a bit from presidential to presidential year.

In order to do any kind of intelligent analysis on Iowa, we’re going to need to understand some simple things like “how many votes do you need to get an actual delegate out of a caucus?”, and “are candidates allowed to trade votes if they’re below the threshold for a delegate?”

With seven billion candidates running in Iowa, it will be hard to crack 5% of the vote for most of these folks, but there’s a whole strategy behind maximizing your delegates. If I remember correctly, the Democratic side has more of this kind of thing than the Republican side. So, for example, O’Malley and Sanders could agree to share voters to maximize their respective delegate counts. Say that you need 12 voters to get a delegate in a particular caucus, and Sanders has seventeen while O’Malley only has seven. The five extra Sanders voters could join with the seven O’Malley voters to give them each a delegate, taking one away from Hillary. Do this across the whole state, and it begins to add up.

Last time around, the Republican side was a mess. Romney was announced as the winner and got a little bounce out of it, but it turned out that Santorum had actually won more delegates. And then Ron Paul basically stole all Santorum’s delegates when the votes were actually cast at later county conventions.

So, this is really a battle of perception and a battle of organization. You don’t want to be Santorum and win without getting credit for it and then lose the actual representation at the convention. Better to be seen as the winner, like Romney, or be the winner like Ron Paul.

Still, it matters what the rules are. Especially with so many candidates out there who will have voters but not enough voters to count, we’ll be seeing alliances and cross-endorsements between rivals. The Anybody But Bush vote will be strong. There will be neocon and anti-neocon factions. There will be competition for the evangelical vote and multiple Catholic candidates to choose from.

Anyway, who wants to go look up the rules for the Republican Iowa caucuses and share them with us?

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