Thursday, March 8, 2012

Romney May Be Winning Ugly, But He Is Winning

The media narrative over the past couple of weeks has consistently been about how Mitt Romney is struggling to close the deal with Republican primary voters.  The argument is not completely without merit.  He is running against a crew of retreads and discards that includes a former House Speaker who resigned his office after his own party forced him out of the Speaker's seat and who has managed to secure no allies among his former colleagues, a Senator who was bounced from office by voter in Pennsylvania by a large double-digit margin, and a 76 year old libertarian who wants to abolish social security.

Yes, if Mitt Romney were a better candidate, he would have sealed this deal a long time ago.  But he is who he is.  And it is important to understand that while Romney may have underperformed what some expected of him against this field, he is methodically winning.

Should Romney have had to resort to scorched Earth politics to win Florida?  Maybe not, but he won Florida and all its delegates.  Should he have won bigger in his birth state of Michigan?  Probably, but the fact is that he won the primary, even if it was ugly.  Should Ohio have been such a close battle?  Probably not, but Mitt walked away with a small popular vote victory and a large delegate victory, thanks to Rick Santorum's inexplicable inability to even register a full delegate slate.

Different web sites have different delegate counts, thanks in large measure to the complex, multi-step processes that some of the caucus states use to allocate delegates, but I've done my own math.  I also exclude RNC delegates from my count, which are the Republican equivalent of Super Delegates, party leaders from each state that have automatic votes at the convention, since their pledge or endorsement from a candidate is not a firm commitment and can change at any time.

As of today, in the contests conducted to date, there are 34 delegates that I need more information and final counts to allocate.  Excluding those delegates, the counts to date, through the first 21 contests are as follows:
Mitt Romney - 368
Rick Santorum - 149
Newt Gingrich - 116
Ron Paul - 63
Rick Perry - 3
Jon Huntsman - 2

Of note, Mitt Romney is now across the 50% threshold of the delegates awarded to date, thanks to his overwhelming victory in his home state of Massachusetts and his big win in Virginia, where Santorum and Gingrich failed to make the ballot.

Of course, you need 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination.  While I can't see any conceivable math to get any of the other candidates to 1,144, their best collective hope would be to keep Mitt from 1,144.

But even this seems highly unlikely.  In theory, the next couple of weeks could be tough for Romney with Kansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi and Missouri on tap next.  But Romney is ahead in Alabama in a recent pole and if he wins Alabama and Hawaii (where he will presumably do extremely well) in addition to picking up delegates from the territories in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Marinas (yes, the get delegates and their events are also in the next two weeks), he will maintain a large lead.

And the map gets a lot more favorable from there.  Illinois is a big delegate prize on March 20th that should break strongly for Romney.  And he has an April firewall of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island, with Santorum only having a real shot in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

And if it goes deep, Romney has the ultimate firewall in June, winner-take-all contests in California and New Jersey, which award a whopping 222 delegates between them, plus a last-in-the-nation contest in Utah that seems sure to award him all 40 of its delegates.

So it appears highly likely that Romney will get to 1,144 by the convention.  The math and all the proportional contests make it difficult to do so anytime soon, which will probably keep at least Santorum alive and running until then (presumably Gingrich will finally bow out if/when he fails to win any of the deep south contests in the next week), just as Hillary was able to keep running against Obama until the bitter end, despite the fact that Obama held a delegate lead the entire course of the 2008 primary season.

It will keep being an entertaining race, but for all the twists and turns, it certainly looks to end the way I always believed it would, with Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.

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