What Actually Matters: Recap of Iowa and New Hampshire

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by Trey Vernaci


The season of presidential primaries has begun, and Iowa and New Hampshire were the first states to conduct these important election events. As the numbers rolled in on February 1 and February 9, respectively, the world tuned in to see who would win the popular vote in these states. The news media coverage tends to shine a spotlight on percentages of popular vote for candidates, yet it fails to acknowledge the significance of delegates; the number that really matters.

After all the primaries have come to a close, the Democratic Party and Republican Party will each meet for a national convention. At these conventions, the parties will select a nominee. The selection takes place by means of a ballot election in which all convention delegates participate. Delegates from each state are sent on behalf of the candidates, and the selection of these delegates differs from party to party and state to state. The process is very complicated, but the information can be found online.

For the Democrats, 4,763 delegates will attend the convention and it takes 2,382 of their votes to win the nomination. As you can see in the chart below, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton currently has 394 delegates to Senator Bernie Sander’s 44. It may be confusing to see Clinton with such a high number, but this charts takes into account both proportionally selected delegates and super delegates. Only 32 of her 394 are pledged delegates awarded based on the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. The other 362 delegates are super delegates, or unpledged delegates, who have announced their support for Clinton, but they can change their mind at any point until the convention. Sanders currently secures 44 delegates, eight of which are super delegates.

For the Republicans, 2,472 delegates will attend the convention. This number requires a candidate to secure 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. Currently, businessman Donald Trump leads Senator Ted Cruz by six delegates; 17 to 11. Following not too far behind is Senator Marco Rubio with 10 delegates.

Based on the primaries of Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton and Trump lead their respective parties. While many individuals may believe that this may be indicative of the final outcome, it certainly is not. There are still 48 states to conduct primaries, including many that are significantly more diverse and more representative of the entire nation. Both Iowa and New Hampshire have populations that are demographically homogeneous, but states like California, Nevada and Washington may give us a better idea of where the American population stands on this presidential election.

To continue with the primaries, Nevada Democratic Caucus and South Carolina Republican Primary will take place on February 20. Then, the Nevada Republican Caucus will be on February 23. Following that, the South Carolina Democratic Primary will be February 27. On Tuesday, March 1, also known as Super Tuesday, 14 states and constituencies will conduct primaries.

Note: For the GOP, former candidates Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Paul Walker have dropped out or suspended their campaigns. For the Democrats, Lincoln Chafee, Larry Lessig, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb have dropped out or suspended their campaigns.