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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Can Romney Be Caught?

Get ready for delegate math to end all delegate math. (At least until after the next set of primaries.)

Thursday's premise: Romney says he can't be caught in delegates.
Thursday's disassembling of premise: Catching Romney in delegates is not the goal of the other candidates.
Thursday's revelation: Rather, the goal of the other candidates is just to keep Romney under 1,144 delegates by the end of the primaries.
Thursday's question: Can they do that?
Friday's key piece of information #1: The remaining Republican Primary schedule.
Friday's key piece of information #2: Romney's delegate math:

The latest Real Clear Politics Standings (including Saturday's contests):
1. Romney--455 (54.7% of delegates)
2. Santorum--199
3. Gingrich--117
4. Paul--61

Finally, based on those two pieces of information, keep this delegate math in mind as we move forward:
Total remaining pledged delegates: 1,408
Amount of remaining delegates needed for Romney to secure the nomination: 1,144 - 455 = 689
Percentage of remaining delegates Romney needs to secure the nomination by the end of the primary season (and without superdelegates making up the difference): 698/1,408=48.9

Conclusion: Romney must win 48.9 percent of remaining delegates to secure the nomination before the convention without de-democratizing the process by using superdelegates to push him over.

So, can Romney be caught? Might we have a brokered convention?

Let's assume a best case scenario for his closest competitor, Rick Santorum. Let's say that Romney never connects with the south and Midwest. As such, let's award Santorum the following remaining primaries (see schedule for their dates and weights): Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Pennsylvania (Santorum's home state), North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Nebraska, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, and South Dakota. Furthermore, in those states, let's give Santorum victories of between one-half and two-thirds of the delegates (decent proportional estimates given everything we've seen from the 2012 Republican Primary). In each case, I've rounded up to the high end of realistic. Let's also give him Wisconsin and all of its 42 delegates (winner-take-all by district and statewide vote). Combined, therefore, these states give Santorum 485 delegates.

Now, for the remaining proportional contests--Romney victories--let's give Santorum one-fourth to one-fifth of those delegates, again rounding up for Santorum in most cases. Those runners up would come in the following contests: Hawaii, American Samoa, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and New Mexico (these last two questionable Romney victories seem similar to Romney-dominated Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, but I'll round up even more for Santorum there). That gives Santorum 80 more, bringing him to 565. Add that to his previous RCP total of 199 and he stands at about 765. Not bad for a four-man race to 1,144, right? No, not bad at all.

But is it enough?

It's enough only if Romney fails to each 1,144. Therefore, we need a Romney breakdown. Let's give Romney one-fourth to one-fifth of the delegates from those Santorum victories, once again tailoring this for the optimistic end of realism for Santorum. Runners up in those contests would award about 155 delegates to Romney.

Then let's give Romney one-half to two-thirds of the delegates from the remaining contests that Santorum loses to him. That comes to about 210 for Romney. Combined, therefore, the remaining proportional contests give Romney 365 more delegates. Add that to his current RCP total of 446, and he's at about 820, still over 300 delegates short of the nomination. Looks good for the field, right?

Not so fast. If you hadn't noticed, I left out seven contests from those two lists. That's because we have seven more contests that don't award proportionally and instead use some form of a winner-take-all system. These contests are Puerto Rico, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, New Jersey, California, and Utah, all of which we can expect Romney to win easily.

Now, Puerto Rico, DC, Delaware, and Utah award their winner-take-all by the statewide popular vote. That's 99 more for Romney, or about 920 total. That leaves Maryland, New Jersey, and, of course, the Big Kahuna, California and its 172 delegates. Each of three awards most of its delegates through winner-take-all per congressional district, and the rest through the statewide vote. There's a strong chance Romney takes all of Chris Christie's districts across the state of New Jersey, so that's 50 more for Romney, giving him about 970. Let's also say that Romney does well enough in Maryland to reach 1,000 even before we factor in California.

California's interesting and, frankly, impossible to predict at this point. Of its 172 delegates, 3 are party leaders, 10 are awarded to the candidate who wins the state, and the other 159 are awarded by the 53 congressional districts--a winner-take-all 3 for each of them. Romney's going to win the state by a mile, so you can basically give him 100 as a baseline and something north of 150 if he has a good day. Thus, we arrive at a final, super conservative Romney projection of between 1,120 and 1,160 delegates.

Of course, I fully acknowledge the silliness of projecting out the campaign through the end of the primaries over three months from now. Moreover, remember, I was optimistic at every step of the road for Santorum, meaning I was necessarily pessimistic for Romney. Furthermore, the more Romney wins and the closer he gets to 1,144, the more likely he wins a higher percentage of delegates than he's thus far been winning, as the party will flock to the winner who can best unify the party as early as possible. Finally, he'll surely pick up superdelegates along the way, further boosting his quest for 1,144 by the closing Utah Primary.

That being said, this model has shown that there is a not impossible scenario--however unlikely--under which Romney is still fighting for every last delegate in June.

So, will Romney be caught? No way. But can we have a brokered convention? I'd stock up on cigars, just in case.

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