Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delegate Math in the Republican 2012 Race

It seems like there's not going to be a knock-out punch Mr. Inevitable in the Republican race, so it's time to switch the focus from intangibles to the real machinery behind the nomination process: delegate counts.

There is no inevitable candidate, as much as the Romney campaign has sought to build the inevitability myth around Willard Romney's operation. Santorum won Iowa, Romney won New Hampshire, and it looks like Gingrich is cruising into a strong win in South Carolina tonight. Most importantly, Florida will be voting in ten days, and while Romney has a large lead in the Sunshine State, Gingrich could conceivably earn a huge bump from a South Carolina win. Early voting in Florida started today; votes will be locked in over the next week. While that should favor Romney's better-organized campaign, a strong bump for Gingrich might push undecideds to jump into the voting booth early for him. We'll see. This is all speculative, and assumes a big Gingrich win tonight.

No knock-out punch could mean a long slog for delegates. This will be more difficult for Mr. Gingrich than it was for President Obama against a similarly-presumptive frontrunner in 2008. Whereas all Democratic states had proportional representation, many Republican states have variations on a winner-take-all scheme. Proportional representation allowed Obama for America to keep the margins down in losses on Super Tuesday and pull off absurd margins in February caucuses, netting extra delegates by organizing supporters in small states like Idaho.

Difficulties for Gingrich aside, let's look at the numbers: Green Papers 2012, a definitive source of information about delegate selection rules that make up each of the state's delegation, estimates that Paul, Romney, and Santorum will each emerge from Iowa with 6 delegates. Gingrich is likely to emerge with 4, plus Rick Perry's 3. Caution: these are incredibly rough estimates, and the actual make-up of the Iowa delegation are actually yet to be decided. Romney's win in New Hampshire netted him 7 votes to Paul's 3 and Huntsman's 2. Huntsman has since endorsed Romney, adding those two delegates to his pile.

The ostensible delegate count stands at 15 for Romney, 9 for Paul, 7 for Gingrich, and 6 for Santorum. At stake tonight are 25 pledged delegates. The winner of the popular vote in the state will take 11 delegates immediately, and each of the 7 congressional districts also award 2 delegates to the winner in the Congressional district. While county-by county results are what most news organizations will be reporting tonight, it would be more instructive to have the results mapped by congressional district.

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