Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Santorum's Delegate Math Isn't So Bad But the Explanation Is

The Santorum campaign held a twisting and turning conference call on the delegate math as the campaign sees it today. FHQ does not mean twisting and turning as in "twisting the math" so much as I mean seemingly making a rather easy argument more difficult than it needs to be. Here is the Santorum campaign delegate estimation:
Romney: 435
Santorum: 311
Gingrich: 158
Paul: 91
Forgive me Gingrich and Paul supporters, but FHQ will focus on how the Romney and Santorum numbers got to where they are in the Santorum estimation. Let's assume the baseline for the Romney number is his current allocation according to the FHQ (454 delegates1). To get to 435, then, we would have to subtract the delegates that would be lost if Florida and Arizona were reallocated under proportional rules (-42 delegates -- -27 in Florida and -15 in Arizona) plus the Santorum campaign estimation of the how many delegates Romney has won in the congressional district conventions held thus far (+23 delegates, approximately) in non-binding/unbound caucus states.

The Santorum number is trickier and for similar reasons. We don't know the baseline number of delegates from which they are starting. FHQ has that number pegged at 172 (170 bound delegates plus 2 automatic delegates). That means that we have to find 139 additional delegates somewhere. 15 come from the reallocation of delegates from Florida and Arizona. That leaves us with a surplus of 124 delegates.

Now, the Santorum math is predicated on overperforming in the steps of the caucus/convention process beyond the precinct phase in the non-binding/unbound caucus states. In those states -- Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Washington and North Dakota -- there are 230 delegates at stake.2 One way of thinking about this is that Santorum would need to receive about 54% of those delegates for 124.

That may not be that far-fetched. If we take the AP delegate projections in these states -- a projection that is proportionally based with the exception of Minnesota -- then Santorum is already starting out with 85 delegates in those states. That would mean that to get to that magic 124 number, Santorum would either have to win 39 of the 49 delegates in Missouri or scale down that Missouri number and add in numbers that overperform Santorum's showings in the various precinct caucus straw polls. Again, it isn't all that far-fetched.

Of course, none of this comes problem-free. And what I mean by that is that this is all based on the perspective of the Santorum campaign. If they are adding in delegates as they come in from congressional district caucuses, then the above analysis can be thrown out the window. Their count, in that instance, would be a count and not a projection (outside of the whole Florida/Arizona thing). That implies that they have some room to grow -- to gain on Romney. If, however, they are using a combination of projection and counting as they go along, then the Santorum campaign has a lot less wiggle room. They are in essence already accounting for the discrepancy in the various delegate projections and the RNC delegate count. And that was a discrepancy driven by how various outlets ar dealing with the unbound caucus state delegates.

FHQ has pushed those delegates to the side in our models for the most part. Our estimates of future delegate allocation based on our 50% model get Romney over 1144 without those delegates.

...but with very few delegates to spare.

Basically, all of this delegate talk from the Santorum campaign amounts to nothing. Their plan may help them to gain a little on Romney, but doesn't really affect the bottom line that Romney is likely to get to 1144. Certainly, if Romney does not get to that majority threshold, then if things go according to the Santorum plan, the former Pennsylvania senator heads into a contested convention with a very slightly larger delegation (but one that would still need assistance from either or both of the Gingrich and Paul campaigns).

1 That is 423 bound delegates and 31 pledged delegates. The alternative is to take the curious RNC view that the 12 automatic delegates from the territories (not counting Puerto Rico) are bound, which would in the Santorum calculation move the Romney number to 435, thus making the remaining 19 automatic delegates free agents that the Santorum campaign can attempt to woo. I think I just convinced myself that the latter is the Santorum view.

2 That total does not include the three automatic delegates from each state.

Recent Posts:
On the Binding of Missouri Republican Delegates

Disputed Wyoming County Delegate Awarded to Romney

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Illinois

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