Chart from the Abulsme.com 2012 Republican Delegate Count Graphs page. When a candidate gets down to 0%, they have cinched the nomination. If they get up past 100%, they have been mathematically eliminated.
Santorum won three states last night! Of course one of them (Missouri) has no relation whatsoever with how delegates are actually selected, so isn’t REALLY relevant (although of course it affects the narrative and “momentum”.) The other two states didn’t actually determine delegates either, but like Iowa, elected delegates to the next stage of the process… which eventually will elect real delegates, so that is good enough that we can use the results to estimate what the eventual delegates will be (although it WILL change). But never the less, Santorum won three states! Santorum is surging, Romney is in trouble, etc, etc, etc!
OK. Time to wake up from the hype here. What is actually going on when we look at the delegate race. First, lets look specifically at Santorum.
As of yesterday’s update, in order to be on a pace to actually catch up and win the nomination before the convention, Santorum would need to be getting 53.3% of all the remaining delegates. What did he actually get? According to our estimates (as usual using The Green Papers and DCW as our sources) 71 new delegates were determined since our last update… 37 from Minnesota, 33 from Colorado, and 1 super delegate. Of these, Santorum got 30. 30/71 = 42.3%. Much better than Santorum had been doing previously… he’s only had 6.4% of delegates before today… but a long way from the pace he would need to actually be on track to catch up and win. So, big night in terms of “momentum”. But in terms of the actual race, he is not gaining on Romney at the pace he would need to actually win. He did actually pass Ron Paul in delegates though, so he’s in 3rd place instead of 4th now, and he came close to catching up to Gingrich to pull into 2nd. So there is that. But he is not on track to actually challenge Romney. At least to win.
Which brings us to Romney. Santorum and the others may not be on a pace to win the nomination, but they ARE hurting Romney. To keep on a pace to win the nomination, as of yesterday’s update Romney needed to be winning 49.2% of the remaining delegates. He actually got 19/71 = 26.8%. Well below what he needed. So he too now has a harder road to the nomination than he did yesterday, even though he is still way ahead. He is still over 50% of the delegates determined so far but just barely (50.9%). We have a lot of proportional contests coming up. Including results from Maine coming soon. He may well drop below 50% again.
What does this all mean? We may have a situation where NONE of the four candidates are tracking toward having a majority of delegates by the time we get to the convention. Wouldn’t that be fun? That hasn’t happened in forever. But for that to happen, we need to continue to have at least three candidates actively collecting delegates, where the non-Romney candidates collectively were getting enough to keep Romney off pace to win (currently the three of them need to get over 50.05% of the remaining delegates for that), but with none of the non-Romneys on pace to catch up and win either. This could happen if Gingrich, Santorum and Paul all stay in it until the end and don’t run out of money or support. If any of these drop out (or their support collapses so Romney starts getting enough to be on pace to win) it will change the dynamics of the race. How it changes depends on who drops out.