I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so another thought comparing the Republican race now versus 2008. This was also first posted as a comment on the Primary Season Amnesia post on Chris Weigant’s blog.
One more follow up thought… it really is very important that the calendars are so different between this year and 2008… so let me explicitly do the conversion. As of today, 2012 Feb 14, we have 10.98% of the available delegates allocated or estimated. The closest comparison we would have had in 2008 was February 4th and 5th, at which point 9.41% of the available delegates had been allocated.
On that day… McCain was ahead of Romney, but just barely. McCain had 43.3% of the delegates so far (and needed 50.7% of the remaining delegates to win). Meanwhile Romney was his closest competition and right behind… 41.1% of the delegates so far (and 51.0% of the remaining delegates needed to win.) This was still a race. These guys were very close to each other at that point. (Unlike this year, where Romney has a very substantial lead on Gingrich at this point.)
So if anything, at a comparable point in the delegate race (as opposed to the time of year) Romney is actually MUCH better off than McCain was at the same point. Gingrich is much further behind Romney than Romney was behind McCain. Romney and McCain were neck and neck. Gingrich is nowhere close to Romney in delegates, and everybody else is even further behind.
But February 5th was Super Tuesday. It took several days for all the delegate estimates from Super Tuesday to be complete… but most of them were in by February 8th, and no other primaries or caucuses had happened yet. At that point 50.29% of the delegates had been allocated. McCain now had 59.6% of the delegates so far, and only needed 40.3% of the remaining delegates to get to the magic number and win the nomination. Romney by contrast, now had only 23.9% of the delegates and needed a full 76.5% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win.
So post-Super Tuesday, McCain could do worse than he had done so far by a 20% margin and still win. But Romney needed to more than triple how he had been doing in the delegate count to catch up and win. These are again the kind of numbers where the press will still call it a race because it is fun, but the reality is that in order to close that kind of gap the front runner essentially has to totally collapse AND things have to go very very right for their challenger too…
As for this year, things are MUCH more spread out. After Super Tuesday we’ll still only have some 35% of the total delegates allocated, as opposed to over 50% in 2008. So even if after super Tuesday, Romney is finally starting to get his “% of remaining needed to win” to come down instead of staying flat, he’ll have a decent slog to actually collect the 1144 delegates. If he still is hovering around 50% of the delegates (or less!) at that point instead of routinely winning more than half of the delegates, then we’ll have quite a nice bit of fun before we get to the end of this, and the possibilities of brokered conventions start becoming more real.
But in terms of the delegate race, in comparison to 2008, it is really very early. On February 14th 2008, 56.55% of the delegates were already allocated. We won’t get to that point in 2012 until the end of March or beginning of April (depending on how fast super delegates announce their positions). It was very front loaded last time. This time it is very stretched out….