As of March 9th, 23 states have held presidential preference primaries or caucuses. Several of these have been non-binding or awarded no delegates (Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri to name a few). Each of the four GOP hopefuls has won at least two of these states except Congressman Ron Paul. To date, former MA Gov. Romney leads the pack with 14 wins. Former Senator Rick Santorum has captured seven states, and Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has won just two states. Each has made the argument that he is the 'true' conservative in the race and the only one that can beat President Barack Obama in November. Each believes, or at least asserts, that he can win the nomination and represent the GOP in November. Barring a massive collapse of support for Mitt Romney, each is wrong. In reality, what they are doing is splitting the non-Romney vote and making the nomination of Mitt Romney more likely than not. The next four days are likely to go a long way toward making Romney's nomination that much more certain. Here's why:
Kansas--The Sunflower State holds its presidential caucus on Saturday March 10th and Rick Santorum is favored to win, though it is all but impossible to poll a caucus state. Kansas has 40 delegates up for grabs, 37 of which will be proportionally allocated. Three delegates are assigned to each of Kansas' four congressional districts and will be awarded to the candidate that carries the popular vote in the district. The likely allocation here is 9-3 in favor of Rick Santorum, but depending on how Romney does in Kansas City and Wichita it could end up 6-6. The next 25 delegates are awarded proportionally based upon a candidate getting at least 20% of the statewide vote. Assume Santorum grabs 40% of the vote and Romney grabs 30% while Gingrich and Paul split the rest. The latter two would receive no delegates while Santorum and Romney divide the 25 delegates according to their share of the total votes cast for candidates getting at least 20%. Assume this is 7000 votes, 4000 for Santorum, 3000 for Romney. This translates to 57% Santorum and 43% Romney. Fifty-seven percent of 25 equals about 15 delegates for Santorum to 10 for Romney. Santorum could end up with anywhere between 21 and 27 delegates while Romney scoops up 10 to 16 delegates. Finally, there are three at large delegates that are bound to the winner of the statewide vote. Best case scenario for Santorum is 30-10, a net gain of 20 delegates. More likely is a 24-16 split and a net gain of only eight delegates. Confused yet?
After Kansas, the voters in Mississippi, Alabama, and Hawai'i get their say in a trio of primaries next Tuesday. Mississippi will allocate proportionally and recent polls have shown Newt Gingrich with a small lead here. Mitt Romney is favored in Hawai'i, and Gingrich is favored slightly in Alabama. By most accounts Romney will do no worse than second in both of the southern states and probably draw 28-30% of the vote. That will net him a good chunk of the delegates in both states so he moves ever closer to 1144. It will be a slow but steady march to Tampa for Romney but he'll likely get there, even if the media keeps yapping about his 'poor' performances.
Ironically, the strategy the Gingrich and Santorum campaigns are pursuing is the one strategy most likely to ensure Mitt Romney is the GOP standard bearer in November. If either of them really wants to stop Romney's momentum he would take one for the team and quit the race and throw his support to the other. Neither has a small enough ego to do so and that's just one reason neither of them deserves to govern our great nation.