Meet the Man Behind the 2012 Delegate Count
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For a few months per election cycle, Associated Press journalist Stephen Ohlemacher is arguably the most important political reporter in the world.
Ohlemacher's AP delegate count encountered lofty attention during the 2008 Democratic primary as then-Sen. Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton duked it out in one of the more memorable contests in U.S. primary history.
|Meet Stephen Ohlemacher. You'll be hard-pressed to find a photo of him, but he might be the most important political reporter in the world. Pin It|
"I haven't been yelled at too much this time around," Ohlemacher says on the phone from his office in Washington, D.C. "Four years ago it got really heated. It was fantastic -- I mean, I would get calls from West Coast newspapers every night when they were trying to put together charts and graphics on the delegates."The process is tedious and time consuming, and it's a full-time job, Ohlemacher says. But the reporter talks about delegate counts as if he's about to devour a hearty Sunday morning breakfast. Ohlemacher, along with various AP writers and stringers strewn across the country and its territories, began preparing for the Republican primary process late last summer. He started by calling the Republican National Committee to find out how many delegates it allocated to each state. Then he called all the state Republican parties to find out their bylaws and primary procedures (caucus or primary, winner-take-all or proportional). Some state party Web sites, he says, had a lot of the necessary information, but Ohlemacher wanted to be as detailed and precise as possible. He called party chairmen, spokespeople, executive directors or whoever was in charge of each state's primary or caucus. "Everything down to all the different details -- ... I check out every resource when I'm trying to find information -- but just simple things like: how do you round? You know, do you round up? Is it standard rounding? You know, 0.5 is up, below 0.5 is down. Some states don't round at all -- they just would hold delegates, and any delegates that are left over they give to the highest vote-getter," Ohlemacher says, rattling off these technicalities without a pause for breath. "Which is fine, you know, they can do it any way they want, the problem is you have to figure out exactly how they plan to do that -- do it accurately."
One ManOhlemacher, who has worked for the AP since 2005 and has managed the familiar delegate counter for the 2012 and 2008 presidential primary races, repeatedly credits the vast network of AP reporters and his boss for keeping track of up-to-the-minute delegate counts. Surely one man doesn't have the final say on what the AP will tally on its influential delegate scorecard. Surely one man didn't make the call to follow the Michigan GOP's decision to give Mitt Romney 16 delegates and Rick Santorum 14 delegates when Santorum and his supporters argued they should be evenly split. Surely. The country, nay, a large part of the world every week in 2008 seized their newspapers or jumped on the Internet to scour through the infamous "super delegates" and regular, ho-hum delegates to determine if Obama or Hillary had the upper hand in the hotly contested Democratic contest. "Oh yes, yeah ... I'm the one who does it, yeah," Ohlemacher says. Ohlemacher chuckles and says his boss has to check it as well, but, yeah, it's just him. Ohlemacher's final decisions on delegates are mostly mathematical -- either you have a delegate or another candidate has it -- but five caucus states, he says, pose a difficult hurdle. Minnesota's caucuses offer a good example of this. The AP, or Ohlemacher, show a tight race: Paul 18, Santorum 16, Romney 3, Newt Gingrich 1 and 2 unallocated. According to TheGreenPapers.com, one of many sources Ohlemacher says he uses to help determine the most precise standings possible, Ron Paul holds 20 delegates in Minnesota while Rick Santorum has two. Three remain uncommitted, as they are the three party leaders who technically must remain unbound until the national convention, and 15 are still available. So why would Ohlemacher appoint Minnesota's national delegates who have not yet been selected at the state convention scheduled for mid-May? "At the state convention,
The End?"Everybody says, 'Oh, your job's over now; it's over right?' I'm like, 'Oh, it's not over yet," Ohlemacher laughs. "I mean it's not over because -- you know, everyone knows Romney's gonna get there, but we still keep track of it and we're going to chart it until he does get to 1,144
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