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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weekend Primaries Preview

(Note: This weekend, IC will be quite busy attending several events, driving between them, and speaking in the third person. Therefore, he'll have little time to update PPFA. Thus, allow today's post to serve as a preview for the entire weekend. Brief, sporadic posts over the next couple of days are not impossible, but don't expect full analysis until next week. He feels awful about this and promises you a full refund.)

Sooner or later, Rick Santorum will have to make a dent in Mitt Romney's delegate lead. Wait, not later. Just sooner. These moral victories are all well and good, but even with this week's triumph in Alabama and Michigan, he still lost ground, as Romney's narrow losses in the south were more than made up by big wins in Hawaii and the American Samoa.

Looking ahead, Santorum has a decent chance to earn a near split with Romney the rest of the way, which sounds like a good thing, though it's actually not. We can split the remaining schedule up into four groups, and we find that in each of those four groups, Romney and Santorum are about even in strength. 1) For example, the next eight days have four primaries. Two favor Romney (Puerto Rico, Illinois), two favor Santorum (Missouri, Louisiana). 2) Ten days later--April 3--Santorum can win Wisconsin, the biggest contest of the day, while staying close in Maryland and losing lightly weighted Washington DC. 3) Of the next eight states after that, four are in Romney territory (New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware), and four are in Santorum's (Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana). 4) Afterward, of the final eleven states, either candidate can realistically win five or six of them.

But that won't get the job done for Rick Santorum. Not only would he not be able to catch Romney, but if Romney performs as expected in those areas, he will successfully reach 1,144 delegates. That's why, even with these moral victories like those this past week, Santorum must find a way to eat into that Romney delegate lead. Can he do that this weekend?

Probably not. Here are the four contests between now and April 3:

March 17: Missouri (nonbinding Caucus)--52
March 18: Puerto Rico (Proportional Caucus)--23
March 20: Illinois (indescribable)--69 (big one)
March 24: Louisiana (primary)--46 (proportional, southern)

We can expect Santorum to win big in Missouri. Unlike February 7's Missouri Primary, which was not counted in the standings by any outlets, there's a chance tomorrow's Missouri Caucus, even if it's also nonbinding, will be counted. In Puerto Rico, Romney's expected to continue his domination of island US territories, especially after Santorum's slip-up concerning Puerto Rico's language identity. The big number here in Puerto Rico is 50 percent. If Romney breaks it, he wins all 23 delegates. If he falls short, Santorum will pick up proportional delegates. If Santorum fails to pick up those proportional delegates, Romney's sweep of all 23 delegates will make up for any losses he suffers to Santorum in Missouri.

With 75 delegates up for grabs in the two contests, I can't imagine the narrative will change if both candidates finish within a handful of each other, which looks likely. What Santorum needs to do is somehow set up a shock in Illinois. If he can win Missouri big and stay close in Puerto Rico, he might be a player in Illinois. If he pulls off another surprise in Illinois, he'll definitely win Louisiana. That would make five of six contests--including a big Romney state--and he would finally have momentum not only in narrative, but delegates as well.

Of course, a win in Illinois is unlikely. A much more reasonable scenario is that the two candidates split the four contests in half, and that just won't get it done for Rick Santorum. Sooner or later, he's going to have to make a dent in Romney's lead. No, not later. Sooner.

Or else it'll be too late.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis. I don't know of any better anywhere else in the media.

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