Who Chooses the Nominees: New Hampshire Edition

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
The first-in-the-nation primary is underway in New Hampshire today. In case you need a refresh on what’s at stake, here’s Yoni explaining the nomination process:

But wait! There’s more. As touched on in the video, different states allocate their delegates differently. Philip N. Diehl goes further in his explanation for us last month:

The delegate-allocation rules are typically described as either winner-take-all or proportional. But they actually break down into five or six types and can be simplified into three categories: winner-take-all, winners-take-most, and proportional.

Winners-take-most states are those with proportional allocation and a 15 percent or 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates. Strictly proportional states have proportional allocations with either no thresholds or low ones—typically, 5 percent or 10 percent. If only two viable candidates face each other in a winners-take-most state, both would probably qualify for delegates, which would be allocated proportionately. But the picture is more complex with five, six, or seven viable candidates in the mix.

So what about New Hampshire? The Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Zitner unpacks how the Granite State “presents a twist”:

Two unusual features of the race come into play: First, a large number of GOP candidates are bunched at about 10% support or less in the state. Second, New Hampshire allocates delegates differently than do many other states.

Like some states, New Hampshire will award its delegates proportionately: A candidate who wins 25% of the statewide vote gets 25% of the delegates. But under the state’s rules, a candidate must win at least 10% support to qualify for any delegates. That’s different than some other proportional states, such as North Carolina and Virginia, which have no such threshold.

Delegates that would have been earned by low-scoring candidates absent the 10% threshold are instead awarded to the statewide winner.

Our politics team is currently live-blogging the full show in New Hampshire. Polls mostly close at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. in about 20 communities).