The Spectacle Blog

Santorum Team Claims Closer Delegate Race

By on 3.20.12 | 3:32PM

The Santorum campaign held a press tele-conference earlier today in which they claimed they are doing far better collectively in caucuses in Iowa, Missouri, and Washington State (and probably Alaska, too, although they didn't focus on this) than most media understand. They say they are picking up numerous delegates as the processes go on, and that Ron Paul is picking up some, too, and that Romney is losing big time. The way this can work is complicated, but definitely, definitely a facet of caucuses, where pluralities can be turned into majorities by good uses of alliances. (I've even been in a caucus where I actually helped turn a minority into a plurality, but that took some help by some idiocy among the David Duke supporters whom I was opposing.) Now it must be said that Santorum's folks were doing projections to final results from preliminary events in district caucuses, and they haven't released their lists of state-convention delegates in the applicable states. But as I reported yesterday about the Louisiana contest coming up (a process with which I am intimately familiar):

Word on the ground is that Paul is extremely well organized for the caucuses. It might be that the only way to defeat him is for the Santorum and Gingrich organizations to join forces, at least in tactical alliances if not formally, at each of the caucuses.

But here's the deal: If Santorum wins a narrow victory on Saturday and gains, say, 6 delegates to 5 each for Gingrich and Romney... but Gingrich later drops out and his Louisiana campaign organization folds into Santorum's, then the caucus rules (which are too complicated to explain here) are such that Santorum could come close to sweeping the other 23 delegates on June 2. (Obviously, the same would be true if Gingrich and Romney joined forces, but that isn't going to happen.)

This is another example of how Gingrich's presence in the race directly hurts Santorum.

As it might be in Louisiana later this Spring, it already could well be occurring in Missouri, Iowa, and Washington State. In other words, what the Santorum team claims is certainly plausible. Whether or not their information is correct is anybody's guess, of course. There is no good way, right now, to validate it.

Santorum's folks also argue that the winner-take-all delegate awards in Florida and Arizona were against RNC rules (a fact confirmed by six-term RNC member and rules guru Morton Blackwell), and that if a challenge forcing those allocations to become proportional is upheld  as it should be, then they will gain a few more delegates, and Gingrich and Paul should gain as well, while Romney loses big-time.

They therefore extrapolate the following numbers of what they claim are the likely actual delegate counts of contests already reported on publicly, from a combination of good performances in ongoing caucuses plus a "proper" allocation of Arizona and Florida delegates:

Romney 435, Santorum 311, Gingrich 158, Paul 91. In short, they say Romney is actually well below the 50% threshold needed for a first-ballot nomination victory.

Despite my obvious preference for Santorum, this is not advocacy, but merely reporting. I have no way to know if their reports on district caucus results are correct. All I know is that it is certainly possible.

Here's one example they gave, from a district in Washington State. In the balloting a few weeks back in that district, they say, Romney got 47% of the vote, Paul got 25%, and Santorum got 18%. But when delegates to the state convention were actually chosen at the caucuses, Santorum got 4, Gingrich and Paul 3 each, and Romney just 2. The reason this is plausible is that conservatives have a history of over-performing in caucuses. Plus, if Gingrich and Santorum and Paul all joined forces, their combined 53 percent of so would outweigh Romney's 47 percent.

If this doesn't make sense to you, then, well, you've probably never participated in a hotly contested caucus/convention system. Trust me: It's doable.

Of course, things could change at the state conventions in question. Perhaps Romney's delegates could figure out tactics to counteract any advantages the Santorum folks have built up. The point is, though, that Romney's "inevitability" might not be so, well, inevitable. For a political junkie, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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