Do the math: The increasing probability of a brokered Republican National Convention


After Super Tuesday Mitt Romney told Santorum that the delegate numbers were against him and that it was unlikely that the latter could win enough delegates to reach the 1144 magic number to clinch the nomination. Truth be told, it looks like none of the GOP candidates except Romney can reach this number, and even his chances are questionable. All this raises the increasing probabilities that there will be no candidate with enough delegates after the primaries are done in June to clinch the nomination. Brokered convention here we come!

Let’s do some math.

There are a total of 2,286 delegates to the August 27-30, 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Florida. For a candidate to win the nomination he must secure 1144 delegates.

Through super Tuesday here is the delegate count:

Romney            421
Santorum         181
Gingrich           107
Paul                  47
Huntsmann     02

So far a total of 758 delegates have actually been awarded. This is 33.1% of the total delegates. Another 129 delegates have been selected in caucus states such as Maine and Minnesota but have not yet been awarded to anyone. This means there are 1399 delegates or 61.2% are yet to be awarded.

 Of the 129 caucus delegates not officially awarded, potentially Santorum and Paul have done well at winning many of the delegates in these caucus states, suggesting that their numbers looking better than they do. In fact even Romney may have more delegates than his official number indicate if his portion of the 129 is considered. But for purposes here, ignore these 129 delegates since they probably will not be awarded until after the primary season is over and they generally are cast for the winner at the national convention, assuming there is one. If no candidate has already reached the 1,144 number, these 129 delegates will become really important.

Of those delegates actually awarded (758) Romney has won 55.5%, Santorum has won 23.8%, Gingrich 14%, and Paul 6.2%.

For Romney to win the nomination, he needs to win 723 additional delegates out of the 1399 remaining. This means he has to win 51.6% of the remaining delegates.

For Santorum to win the nomination, he needs to win 963 additional delegates our of the 1399 remaining. This means he has to win 68.8% of the remaining delegates.

For Gingrich to win the nomination, he needs to win 1037 additional delegates our of the 1399 remaining. This means he has to win 74.1% of the remaining delegates.

For Paul to win the nomination, he needs to win 1097 additional delegates our of the 1399 remaining. This means he has to win 78.4% of the remaining delegates.

The math suggests that Romney merely need to perform in the future at slightly below or about the same level of delegate collection to win the nomination. If this were occur, he would have enough delegates around June 5, when California (172), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), New Mexico (23), and South Dakota (28) hold their primaries. Assuming no major changes in political fortunes, it will be three more months at a minimum for the Republican nomination to conclude with a nominee.

But Romney’s math is fuzzy. March 10 brings Kansas, March 13 Alabama and Mississippi, and then Missouri has a March 17 contest. There is a total of 142 delegates here. Romney will not do well here, winning perhaps 40% of the delegates (57). There are other southern states–Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky, with a total of 272 delegates where he may also substantially underperform and perhaps win only 40% of the delegates (109). If this were the case, Romney would have 587 delegates, and would then have to win 557 out of the other 1,127 remaining delegates (49.4%). This is not impossible for Romney, but it suggests that he has to continue to perform well in these other states if he wants to clinch the nomination by the end of the primary season in June.

If Romney were to perform worse than these projections then he chances of securing the necessary delegates to clinch goes down. For example, if he does worse than expected in the next two weeks and his momentum is slowed then it may make it harder for him to clinch in advance. Better than expected performances in the next couple of weeks can increase the chances of securing the necessary delegates.

Bottom line: The math is against Santorum at this time and Romney merely needs to continue at his current pace to clinch the nomination in June. Romney is definitely in the driver’s seat but the math suggests a precarious seat.