The primaries have now entered the math phase. Romney is chasing the magic number of 1144, competing hard in every state to maximize his delegates. Gingrich now acknowledges that it is almost mathematically impossible for him to reach 1144, and admits his strategy has switched to denying Romney the magic number. Santorum, at least publicly, says his goal is still to win the delegate race, but he has to nearly run the table to do so.
It has become a two man race. Romney needs 649 to reach the line. Santorum needs 892. Whose strategy is still viable, according to the numbers? Is Santorum playing to win, or is he secretly playing the spoiler role too?
The number of delegates still up for grabs is 1289. However, just looking at the national number is useless, because of the mix of delegate allocation methods, so you have to drill down to the individual states. So far, this race has hewed to demographic preferences fairly closely. Romney wins urban/suburban, northeastern, and western voters. Santorum wins rural, southern, and midwestern voters. Because of that, it is possible to make reasonable predictions for the remaining allocation of delegates, and thus to assess whether each strategy is viable.
Below is my rough guess on delegate allocation for the remaining primaries. I did not want to bias the outcome with too much subjective judgement, so I kept the methodology simple, as follows:
- If a state is WTA and leans fairly strongly towards one candidate, I gave that candidate all the delegates
- If a state is proportional, mixed, or direct, and leans strongly towards one candidate, I gave that candidate 2/3 of the delegates and the opponent got 1/3
- If a state is a toss-up, I gave each of the candidates half of the delegates
Based on this data, I think it will be a squeaker. (Edit: data changed to reflect NJ as WTA, making it even more of a squeaker) Romney will finish with
1120 1138 delegates, just 22 6 (!) votes short of the magic number. However, don't forget there are 126 "super-delegates" who can vote for anyone, and those people are overwhelmingly from The Establishment.
My estimate is preliminary and could be improved in several ways. First, perhaps I did not make enough distinction between the true proportional and the WTA/mixed primaries. Second, I did not allocate the delegates from nonbinding state caucuses because I don't really understand the factors at play in who they eventually go to. Third, I did not look closely at polling in each state, just a general preference based on demographics, so I probably got some of the the favored states wrong. Fourth, some states lean stronger than others, so using a 1/3-2/3 allocation for each state may have been overly crude. Frankly, I just didn't have the time to spend doing an exhaustive analysis of each state.
So if anyone out there wants to improve on this estimate, please give it a shot.
Also, just so there are no suspicions of hidden agendas, I am a Romney supporter. Where I was unsure on a state, I tried to lean towards Santorum, to cancel out my own bias. But certainly my conclusions should be closely scrutinized by those favoring Santorum.