GOP Race: Monday State of Play

Guy Benson
Posted: Mar 12, 2012 9:27 AM

As another week of the Republican nominating slog kicks off, let's review where things stand after this weekend's developments:

(1) As Dan reported, Rick Santorum ran away with the Kansas caucuses, winning the overwhelming majority of delegates at stake in Jayhawk Country.  Unfortunately for the Not Romney contingent, the former Massachusetts governor still ended up collecting more delegates on Saturday, thanks to strong showings in various US territory islands and Wyoming.  The Romney campaign blasted out an exultant scorecard update that evening:

Mitt Romney won more delegates than any of the other candidates and continued his momentum and path to getting the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.  In what was hyped as a big opportunity for Rick Santorum, he again fell short of making a dent in Mitt Romney’s already large delegate lead, much less of winning the 65% of the remaining delegates that is required for him to have a chance at getting 1,144 (he won less than 50%). 

Mitt Romney: 38 delegates

Guam: 9
Northern Mariana Islands: 9
Virgin Islands: 7
Kansas: 7
Wyoming: at least 6 (2 tbd)

Rick Santorum: 34 delegate

Guam: 0
Northern Mariana Islands: 0
Virgin Islands: 0
Kansas: 33
Wyoming: at least 1 (2 tbd)

The "65 percent" figure refers back to the calculation crunched by Frontloading HQ/ABC News, explained further by Slate's John Dickerson:

On Super Tuesday, Romney won six of 10 states. He won 65 percent of the delegates and hundreds of thousands of votes. Conclusion: The race is not close! Unfortunately for Gingrich and Santorum, the delegate math is what matters in winning the nomination and Romney has a huge lead. Romney now has 396 delegates - 748 away from the number needed to win. Santorum is in second with an estimated 146. Newt Gingrich has 97 and Ron Paul comes in last with 38. In order to reach the required 1,144, Romney needs to win about half of the remaining delegates, while Santorum would need to win two-thirds of them.

Dickerson also correctly observes that although it's nigh impossible for any of Romney's rivals to overtake his delegate lead, the possibility remains that they could collectively deny him the outright majority that would foreclose any chance of a contested convention.

(2) Romney's lead on the national GOP ballot is stable in the low double digits.  Gallup and Rasmussen's latest surveys each measure his advantage at 12 points.

(3) Voters in three more states head to the polls tomorrow night.  110 delegates are up for grabs in Alabama (open, proportional primary), Mississippi (open, proportional primary), and Hawaii (closed caucus).  Polls show a very tight match between Romney and Gingrich in Alabama, and a muddled mess in Mississippi: Rasmussen has Romney up 8, ARG shows Gingrich ahead by 4 -- make of that what you will.  Hawaii hasn't seen a poll conducted in months, plus small caucuses are notoriously difficult to predict, so consider Romney's large lead there with due skepticism.

(4) As I wrote over the weekend, a new Rasmussen polls puts both Mitt Romney (5 points) and Rick Santorum (1 point) ahead of President Obama in hypothetical general election match-ups.  Lefties instantly waved off the numbers because Rasmussen is "too Republican," or whatever.  This complaint ignores the fact that Rasmussen's daily tracking numbers have hewed pretty closely to other pollsters' results over the last few months (including Obama's late February bounce), as well as every other piece of polling data I cited in my post (from Gallup, USA Today, and Quinnipiac).