BY BEN BRADFORD
Former governor Mitt Romney has the most delegates by far, and his campaign claims his opponents are ignoring the “basic principles of math” by staying in the race—because they can’t earn enough delegates to win the party’s nomination.
Mathematically, that’s almost, but not quite, true. But Ben Bradford reports Romney’s opponents may be looking at another path to victory.
Bradford: Let’s do the math—quickly I promise: It takes 1,144 delegates to elect the Republican nominee, and so far former Senator Rick Santorum—in second place—has about 160. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has about 100. Mitt Romney has 404, more than double their amounts, combined.
With about 1400 delegates in the remaining contests, it’s an uphill climb for non-Romney candidates to reach the magic number of 1,144. Political scientist and statistician Ken Jillson explains what it would take.
Jillson: They would have to win about two-thirds of the delegates that remain available and it’s sufficiently difficult that it’s nearly impossible, but it’s not mathematically impossible.
Bradford: In races so far, winning candidates have generally earned 35 or 40 percent of a state’s delegates, so two-thirds is a tall order, or as Jillson says, nearly impossible. But the candidates have shown no sign they see it that way. Here’s Gingrich in Georgia on Super Tuesday, after winning only that state:
Gingrich: We’re going on to Alabama. [Cheers] We’re going on to Mississippi. [Cheers] We’re going on to Kansas.
Bradford: Gingrich probably can’t win, but he can also not lose. If current voting patterns hold, Romney won’t get to 1,044 for months. If successfully slowed down, he might never reach the winning number.
Helping this strategy, elections next week in Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri favor the more conservative candidates. That will provide an opportunity for Gingrich and Santorum to peel away support from Romney.
Santorum is in better position than Gingrich, with a higher delegate count and more state wins under his belt.
Santorum: I’m asking for your help and support on Tuesday, you do that, you deliver us a victory on Tuesday. We will make this a two-person race, and once it’s a two person race, the conservative will be the nominee.
Bradford: That’s Santorum speaking yesterday in Alabama. He wants to stop Gingrich from winning anymore, from keeping any momentum, and to drop out. Then, in an ideal scenario for Santorum, Jillson explains:
Jillson: All of that anti-Romney vote could consolidate around him and give him a chance to beat Romney and go into the convention with a number of delegates, perhaps still less than Romney but hold Romney under a majority and then fight it out at the convention.
Bradford: The Republican convention is usually a formality for the candidate who has already won. But in this scenario, the decision would occur at the convention. It would also be chaos. Quin Monson at the Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy says in that kind of convention anyone could be nominated—Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, or even someone who isn’t running, like New Jersey governor Chris Christie or former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Monson says the effect will be to hurt the eventual nominee’s chances, whoever he is—probably Romney.
Monson: If I’m a true-blue Republican, I want Romney to get the nomination and I want him to wrap it up quickly. I want Santorum and Gingrich to bow out gracefully and to endorse Romney and to be nice [laughs].
Bradford: Like all of these scenarios, the chances of that happening look slim. Not impossible, but slim.
Ben Bradford, Columbia Radio News