Super Tuesday Preview

Are we headed for a brokered convention?

Super Tuesday is here and the day is proving to be critical for every candidate in the race for the GOP nomination. As I wrote last week, Tuesday shifts the race from one of political perception into one of political reality. Some of our readers aren’t going to like what I have to say here, but please know I believe to my core this is the case. I’ve recently noticed a lot of conservatives like to read news that confirms their own beliefs, even if that news is not totally speaking from a view of reality. Gingrich fans get upset that I don’t tell them Gingrich has an excellent shot at winning. Santorum fans get angry when I suggest Romney is better positioned for a portion of the election. Paul fans get upset because I remind them that even though the race is about the delegates, Ron Paul has less than 20 pledged and maybe another 20 or so beyond that. Romney fans don’t like that I suggest this thing could slip away from them under a perfect storm.

I’ll remind everyone I have no dog in this fight. If the election were held here in Illinois today I have no idea who I would vote for. So for this post I’m just writing it as I see it and I hope you’ll read what I have to say with an open mind, not one so attached to a candidate that it can’t see reality through the trees of personally desired perception.

Let’s get started.

Super Tuesday, 2012

There are ten states that hit the polls this coming Tuesday. These states are Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. I wholeheartedly believe that if Romney is to be held back to the point of not being able to eventually gain enough delegates for the convention, it will have to happen on Super Tuesday. That said, unless Rick Santorum crushes Newt Gingrich in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and even picks up some delegates in Georgia, I do not see any of the not-Romney’s getting enough delegates either.

Which really leaves us with a potential mess on our hands. Especially considering the convention is on August 27th, leaving only two months for a candidate to build a full scale general election campaign against incumbent Barack Obama. If we’re left to watch this GOP fight continue on through the convention with none of the candidates holding 1,144 or more delegates, it’s going to be several times more difficult to win the White House in November.

The following map is from our very own delegate tracker at VoterTeaParty.com.

The map shows states won by each candidate thus far. Keep in mind some states are proportional as far as delegate allocation goes. Some are also states that did not bind delegates or even pledge them during the primary election. According to our best “conditional” delegate count, the following applies.

  1. Mitt Romney – 165
  2. Rick Santorum – 85
  3. Newt Gingrich – 32
  4. Ron Paul – 19

The numbers vary widely depending on who you ask. The Wall Street Journal shows much higher totals, for example, and Politico shows much lower. No one knows exactly how many delegates will show up for each candidate… yet. Those totals will become more clear as we get through March and April, and non-binding states begin deciding where their delegates go.

Now let’s take a look at each candidate.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is wise to place so much emphasis on his original home state of Georgia. In terms of delegates, Georgia is the king of the day Tuesday. The state holds 76 delegates. The delegates are distributed proportionally, but Gingrich is polling very well there and may end up holding a full basket. For Georgia there are 31 at large delegates that are allocated by percentage. The higher the percentage of the vote, the more delegates the candidate receives. 42 delegates are allocated by Congressional District. If a candidate gains the majority of the vote in a CD, he gets all delegates for that district. 20% or higher of the at large vote is required to obtain at large delegates. 3 delegates are allocated to the RNC.

It’s highly likely that Ron Paul will gain zero delegates from Georgia. It’s somewhat likely that Santorum will gain none and remotely possible that Romney can’t pull out any either. If Gingrich were able to sweep Georgia it would be a huge boost for his total count. Gingrich would find himself at 108 delegates, which would be a good jump.

Unfortunately for Gingrich, I don’t see enough room elsewhere for him to make up enough to set him on a path to 1,144 total delegates. Other states where Gingrich could pick up delegates include Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho. The problem is Santorum maintains a heavy lead over Gingrich in all of these states. In Ohio, the next biggest state in terms of delegates, Gingrich runs in a distant 3rd behind both Santorum and Romney.

I think the total delegate pick-up for Gingrich on Tuesday might be around 100 or so. Which would place him at 132 total delegates.

Ron Paul

I know a lot of my Ron Paul supporting friends keep harping on the fact that this race is all about the delegates, but I don’t see how bringing up that fact is supposed to help Ron Paul’s shot at winning this thing. Ron Paul currently sits at 19 bound delegates. If we’re to be generous on the unbound and assign him twice as many, he still fails to reach 40. To make matters worse, Paul currently polls at less than 10% in almost every single state holding elections on Tuesday. The only state where he crosses the 20% threshold is Virginia, where he and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates on the ballot.

Of the available Virginia delegates, only 13 are divided up by the at large vote. The rest are winner-takes-all by congressional district. (3 delegates available through RNC)

My best guess is Ron Paul ends Super Tuesday with less than 30 new delegates. It might possibly be less than 20.

Rick Santorum

Santorum is poised to do very well in Tennessee, Oklahoma and other safe red states (outside of Georgia). Santorum’s greatest battle will happen in Ohio where 63 delegates are up for grabs. 15 are allocated by the at large vote, so Santorum can afford to lose the at large vote IF he wins more congressional districts. Another 48 delegates are allocated by winner-takes-all in the CD’s.

If Santorum does well in Ohio, I think he can pull around 125 delegates. Putting his total at around 210.

Mitt Romney

Romney may get a small cut out of Tennessee. He’ll take a good chunk in Ohio and will dominate in Massachusetts, Virginia and Vermont.

I think it’s possible Romney ends the day with between 140 and 150 new delegates. If this is the case, his total will be over 300.

Beyond Super Tuesday

You might look at these possible totals and read them to mean that Santorum is catching up to Romney on the delegate count. In terms of the “right now” that is true. Actually, that will continue to be the case until April 3. If Santorum and Gingrich both stay in the race, they’ll fight over southern red states in the coming weeks and close the gap on Romney’s lead. The problem comes on April 3rd and 24th. On those two days deep blue Obama states will propel Mitt Romney into a commanding lead.

A lot of people point to a few southern states that follow those, along with Texas and its whopping 155 delegates. Here’s the problem though… Texas delegates are allocated proportionally. And you know what winner-takes-all states will undo any big gains in Texas? California (169) and New Jersey (50).

Conclusion

This all spells trouble for the GOP convention. Based on basic math it looks like Romney might top out at 950-1,000 delegates by convention time. His closest competitor might be in the range of 600-700, and that’s if things go very smoothly for him, whoever it will be.

In other words, a brokered convention is not as impossible as some might want to believe.

-Eric Odom