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Debating Romney’s Path to Nomination

As Rick Santorum tries to elbow Newt Gingrich out of the race, and Mitt Romney attempts to pressure them both to throw in the towel, the Daily Beast reports that none of the three candidates – not even Romney – have a clear path to the nomination at this point. Here’s the latest on Romney’s thorny delegate math.

Even if Mitt somehow won every delegate in every coming contest, he still wouldn’t clinch the nomination until Oregon’s primary on May 15.

And if Romney musters only 40 percent of the proportional delegates going forward—equivalent to his share of the popular vote total to date—it would mean the first Republican race undecided when the convention opened in a generation. …

Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul individually have no real path to winning the delegate fight—but collectively they are positioned to deny the nomination to Romney and kick the contest to the convention in Tampa, where all delegates are released after the first ballot.

Note that the Daily Beast reporters came to a different conclusion than Frontloading HQ’s Josh Putnam, a political scientist, who still believes Romney has a realistic chance of getting to the magic 1144:

What if you put Mitt Romney in the same model(s) under the same circumstances? Ah, I’m glad you asked.

  • In the first model where Romney would be at 50 percent support statewide and in each congressional district, the former Massachusetts governor would net 1254 delegates.
  • In the second model that accounts for a likely bare minimum of candidates over the threshold, Romney would surpass 1300 delegates at 1341.

Even if we simulate a scenario where Romney continues to only win half of the congressional districts, he still gets to 1152 delegates in the second more realistic model….

The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today’s contests it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch him and get to 1144.

The conclusions are strikingly different, and while Putnam shows his work, the Daily Beast doesn’t explain its math in as much detail. As someone who never majored in statistics, I won’t even begin to try to parse out the true answer at this point. Just know there are cases being made on both sides right now.

Beyond that, there was one point the Daily Beast article mentioned that is absolutely relevant in all scenarios: Barring a miracle, neither Santorum nor Gingrich have a path to reaching 1144. And yet they can make Romney’s route incredibly difficult at the very least, and in some scenarios even block him from being able to collect enough delegates.

The media is happy to drag the battle out as long as possible. But it’s unclear how much patience Republican voters have left for this race. Many conservatives have been supportive of a prolonged primary so far, ostensibly out of the hope it will lead to a brokered convention or a “thorough” vetting process. But the vetting of the Republican field has been pretty complete so far, and the longer the primary race remains a media distraction, the longer it will take before the GOP can fully focus on publicly airing out Obama’s record – and that’s pretty important if the party wants a shot at taking back the White House next November. There will come a time soon when the extended race will stop being a good thing for the Republican Party. And if the battle spills into June? Well, then it becomes a bad thing.


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