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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Republican Delegates, 2/12

(Note: If you came here via a google search, or even if you didn't, these standings are outdated. Click here for the latest standings and coverage.)

Mitt Romney slowed the bleeding last night with his Maine Caucus win. He took 39 percent of the vote to Ron Paul's 36. Rick Santorum won 18 percent of the vote, while Newt Gingrich was far back at 6. In other words: my Maine Caucus Preview? Nailed it!

Below are the updated 2012 GOP Primary Standings, followed by a brief status update for each campaign:

CNN Standings
1. Romney--124 (9 from Maine)
2. Gingrich--38
3. Santorum--37 (3 from Maine)
4. Paul--27 (7 from Maine)

Real Clear Politics Standings
1. Romney--98 (8 from Maine)
2. Santorum--44
3. Gingrich--32
4. Paul--20 (7 from Maine)

Wikipedia Standings
1. Romney--123 (8 from Maine)
2. Gingrich--45 (1 from Maine)
3. Santorum--44 (4 from Maine)
4. Paul--37 (8 from Maine)

Status of Ron Paul campaign
Bummer! Maine was the state for Ron Paul to win, and he came up just short. Looking around, I'm not sure what other state is in play for the Texas Congressman. Maybe Alaska? Regardless, it's not a total loss; the Paul campaign has never been about winning the nomination, and 36 percent was his highest percentage of the primary. At this point, he's Santorum and Gingrich's best friend. For every delegate he wins, it's one less that Romney can win. Moreover, both Santorum and Gingrich concentrated elsewhere this past week while Paul gave Romney a run for his considerable money.

Paul continues to show that, although he can't win, he's good for a chunk of every state's vote and continues to shape the debate. That was always his mission, and he continues to accomplish it.

Status of Newt Gingrich's campaign
Who?

Remember when this guy was attached to every development? Now he's an afterthought. This week was about Santorum's sweep, Romney's precarious situation, and Paul's run at Maine. Gingrich was uncompetitive on Tuesday, irrelevant to Romney's fall, and yesterday finished in a distant fourth.

Of course, this position in the primary's periphery is partly out of necessity and partly out of design. He could not compete with Romney's money and organization throughout the month of February, so he's saving up his resources. Instead, he moved all his eggs into the Super Tuesday 10-state bonanza basket on March 6. Specifically, he's targeting Super Tuesday's largest two prizes--Georgia (his home state) and Ohio (a general election swing state where's he's spending most of his time). Georgia, in fact, will be the biggest contest thus far, and he can expect to win the state he represented in Congress for ten terms. However, it's Ohio that could be the bigger boost. While it carries only 66 delegates to Georgia's 76, if any candidate wins 50 percent of the Ohio vote, they get all 15 "at large" delegates, which would be a significant windfall. If I were Gingrich, I would spend every second of my time in the Buckeye State. If he can win it, he has a shot at 100 delegates just from Ohio and Georgia. Assuming relatvely normal proportional allocations across the other eight Super Tuesday states, he'd be thrust back into the clear #2 position, and if he can win the massive Texas Primary a month later (155 delegates), he's back as a serious contender. More pressingly, strong showings in Georgia and Ohio would hurt Romney's chances at ultimately garnering 50 percent of the national delegates before the convention.

Status of Rick Santorum's campaign
Things are looking up! He has as many victories (Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri) as Romney (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Maine) and had all the momentum heading into the weekend. Last night's loss in Maine meant little, as he spent no time or money in the state while Romney was forced to buy television time just to defeat Ron Paul by three points. What probably hurt more was Santorum's surprising loss to Romney at CPAC. If there was ever a time for the conservative base of the party to point to a conservative and say, "This is our guy," last night was it. Yet, they went with Romney.

It's funny how one event has shown us all we need to know about the 2012 Republican Primary. The Conservative Political Action Conference was a who's who of conservative American titans. Speakers included Bachmann, Cain, Coulter, Jindal, McConnell, Palin, Rubio, Ryan, Walker, and Republican candidates Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum. For three days the place was packed with conservative throngs. If Michael Moore walked into the building, he might have burst into flames.

Is what transpired not a microcosm of the entire primary? Paul was marginalized, Gingrich went all anti-establishment, Santorum swooned the crowd, but still Romney won... with under 40 percent support. You'd think such a crowd would have ultimately supported the tried and true conservative, the mainstream Republican, Rick Santorum. Yet, when they held a straw poll near the conference's conclusion, Romney won with 38 percent of the straw poll vote to Santorum's 31. Conservatives love Santorum, yet they feel it's Romney's turn, as the so-called "electable candidate," to go up against President Obama. A microcosm, indeed.

As for that electable candidate...

Status of Mitt Romney's campaign
Electable? He's lost a majority of the Republican contests. He's only once garnered 50 percent of the vote. Regarding his win in Maine, which stopped his three-state losing streak, the New York Times wrote, "Mitt Romney averted embarrassment on Saturday when he was declared the winner of a presidential straw poll in Maine’s nonbinding caucuses." Apparently, finishing with under 40 percent of the vote, in a next-to-home-state contest, where only one other candidate tried to win, and that one candidate was Ron Paul, and the victory over Ron Paul was by only three points, is averting embarrassment.

While he's still the heavy favorite--for reasons I outlined here--I'm going to start keeping a closer eye at his numbers. If we take his most generous estimate of delegates--CNN's 128--we see that he's 11 percent of the way to the 1,144 needed for the nomination of the 2,286 total. CNN has allocated 226 total delegates so far, meaning 2,060 are not yet allocated. Romney needs to win 1,016 of those remaining 2,060. That's 49.3 percent of remaining delegates. After nine states, only once has he even won 47 percent of the vote of a state, and that was when he won 50.1 percent of the vote in Nevada. (If you're wondering why Romney only needs 49.3 of the remaining delegates despite only once winning more than 46 percent of a state, remember that his victorious 46 percent of the Florida vote earned him all 50 delegates from the winner-take-all contest.)

Remember, we've had one dominant theme ever since Florida, which I wrote about the day after its primary. Since Florida, this primary has not been about what candidate can beat Romney to 50 percent of the delegates. They can't. Santorum can't, Gingrich can't, Paul can't. The primary, rather, is about how those three candidates can keep Romney from winning 50 percent. If Santorum or Gingrich, for examples, win 40 percent of the delegates to Romney's 51, that's a failure. If, however, Santorum and Gingrich each win 25 percent of the delegates and Paul wins 10, that leaves Romney at 40. That's a victory for Santorum and Gingrich, despite ultimately winning fewer delegates in the second scenario.

I hope that made sense. Until next time,

-IC

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