After mixed results on Super Tuesday, an election night that saw Mitt Romney winning six states – but just barely in the night’s biggest prize of Ohio – Rick Santorum winning three states and Newt Gingrich winning one, the delegate count now becomes the critical factor in determining whether or not the former Massachusetts governor can attain majority support at the Republican National Convention.
At this point, because different rules govern selection processes in the various states, it is very difficult to project an accurate pledged delegate count. In fact most political news bureaus reveal different numbers even when projecting the exact same states, because they are estimating how yet unchosen delegates will eventually vote.
It is fair to say that Mr. Romney is presently in the low-400 committed delegate range, inclusive of the Super Tuesday action. Statements from his campaign yesterday proclaimed that none of their opponents can mathematically reach the 1,144 committed delegate number necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. While this appears to be a true statement, Mr. Romney himself may also fall short.
Thirty-four more entities (states and territories) must vote between this Saturday, March 10, and July 14, when Nebraska ends the entire process with their state convention. Of the total universe of 2,286 Republican delegates, 1,475 remain outstanding. Based upon the best projections, Romney must attract in the area of 740 more delegates to secure victory.
Of the 34 remaining states, 19 could favor Romney and 15 likely would not. Based upon the number of winner-take-all (7), straight proportional (8), caucus (7) and those with other format variations (12), it remains unclear if Romney will gain enough support to become the nominee before the Republicans arrive in their host city of Tampa, Fla.
Should no candidate secure the nomination on the first ballot, the convention could then be opened. States require their delegates to support the pledged nominee either through the first, second, or third ballots. This means that after one vote, a large number of delegate commitments expire, thus turning the floor into a free-for-all. An open convention would allow someone not participating in the primaries to capture the nomination.
Could such a scenario actually happen? We already have seen more bizarre things occur in this election cycle. In the next few days, Kansas, Guam, the Marianas Islands and Virgin Islands will each caucus (Saturday). The following Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa will head to the polls and they will add to the political drama. It looks like we’re in for a long haul.