The GOP delegate race: Romney's survival depends on California, Georgia, Missouri

Little attention is being paid to the Republican race ever since John McCain's victory in Florida. But does the Arizona Senator really have things wrapped up? With recent polls showing Romney tying McCain in California and Huckabee and him still having a shot in major battlegrounds like Missouri, Georgia, McCain has not been coronated just yet. A number of conservatives -- starting with Rush Limbaugh -- are seeking to rally the conservative troops to block McCain's path. Ann Coulter even announced that she would vote for Hillary Clinton against John McCain, going as far as calling herself a converted "Hillary girl."

John McCain has three major advantages going into Tuesday. First is Romney's unwillingness to go all out in this final week. Not only has Romney not invested a significant amount in February 5th states, but he is still refusing to draw contrasts with McCain. 2 days from McCain potentially putting an end to the Republican campaign, the Arizona Senator is still mostly unattacked. No wonder his popularity has soared and he is doing so well against Democrats in the general election at the moment. Second, Mike Huckabee's presence in the race is a boost to McCain. It would be too simplistic to say that Huckabee backers would support Romney if their candidate was not in the race, but Huckabee's determination to attack Romney and contest the conservative vote is proving too much to handle for Romney.

Third, as Jonathan Martin reminds us, McCain looks particularly inevitable because of the fact that four of the seven winner-take-all states (AZ, NJ, NY and CT) are strong McCain states. The delegate allocation in these primaries was transformed to a winner-take-all system thanks to Giuliani's campaign manager DuHaime who was hoping that his candidate would get all of the Tri-State area delegates. But now that Giuliani has dropped out, McCain is likely to sweep those four states and shut Romney out entirely from delegate allocation. McCain will come out of those 4 states with as much as 236 delegates!

What does Romney need to accomplish? He needs to stay in contact with John McCain. Right now, he has 87 delegates to John McCain's 180 (I believe this set of numbers does not include Maine). The addition of the 236 winner-take-all delegates to McCain's column mean that Romney faces a huge deficit and he needs to hold that as small as possible to be able to go on. And he has the means to do so, and not only in states like Utah and Massachusetts. A win in Georgia and Missouri could go a long way to helping Romney make up some lost ground, as well as all the caucus states in which Romney is hoping to get more than 50% of the vote -- and of delegates. And then there is California, where Romney looks to have some momentum. Even if he wins there, it would not mean a big boost in delegates given that McCain would prevail in numerous districts, but it could help Romney in the all important spin war.

If Romney survives Super Tuesday -- which is still very much possible -- he could draw this out into a longer fight. The pace of campaigning will slow down and Romney could then once again use his financial advantage. And in a two-way race, Romney could hope to rally the conservative vote. But Romney supporters (and probably most Democrats) don't bet on Romney's resurgence.

The chances of his pulling this off are very slim. To survive, Romney needs to pull out victories in Missouri and probably Georgia and California, and hope that Huckabee beats McCain in Alabama. Even if he is locked in toss-ups in all those states, McCain remains highly competitive and comes in usually slightly on top. So don't be surprised if he sweeps most of them on Tuesday night.

Here here is a state by state breakdown of Tuesday's Republican primaries and caucuses.

Strong McCain: The winner-take-alls

  • Arizona (53), New Jersey (52), Connecticut (30), New York (101). All winner-take-all, so 236 delegates for McCain.

  • Illinois, 70 delegates allocated by district. Most of them should go for McCain.
Strong Romney

  • Utah (36): Winner take-all, so all 36 delegates for Romney.

  • Massachusetts (43): Proportional allocation, so McCain will come out with a significant share of those 43 delegates. Romney has to curse the fact that his home state is the primary state that distributes delegates the most evenly.
Strong Huckabee

  • Arkansas (34): Proportional allocation, so McCain and Romney will both come out with delegates.
Lean McCain

  • Oklahoma (41): 23 delegates allocated WTA statewide (should all go to McCain); 3 delegates allocated WTA in each district, most of which should go for McCain.
Lean Romney: The caucus states

  • The states that hold caucuses and conventions: Minnesota (43), North Dakota (26), Alaska (29), Colorado (46). The delegate allocation will take some sort of proportionality so Romney will have to share his delegates, but he has gotten more than 50% in similar contests that have already been held (Maine, Wyoming).
  • None of these states will allocate pledge delegates this Tuesday, as delegates will be pledged at conventions later in the year. But the same was true in Iowa and Nevada. The media will come out with estimates of delegates here and these will be added to the totals.

  • West Virginia will allocate all 18 of its at-large delegates to the winner of its convention. More delegates will be attributed in a May primary.
Three-way too close to call: Romney HAS to do well here if he wants to stay in contact

  • Missouri (58): The primary is WTA so this is the biggest contest of the night, with a lot of delegates for the winner. Romney has to do win here if he wants to stay in some sort of contact with McCain. Helping McCain is the fact that this is an open primary.

  • Georgia (72); 33 delegates allocated WTA to statewide winner, 3 delegate per district allocated WTA. The state's winner will get a big delegate boost, and even if Romney comes within 1% of McCain he will find himself trailing widely in delegates. So this is another must-win for Romney and unfortunately for him GA is also an open primary.

  • Tennessee (55): Delegate allocation mostly proportional, so Romney has less to lose (or gain).

Close between Romney, McCain

  • California (173): 11 delegates attributed WTA statewide, 3 delegates attributed WTA in each district: The big prize is unlikely to help Mitt Romney much. Whether he wins or loses will mean 11 delegates statewide and, unless he wins big (which is still very unlikely), McCain will prevail in a significant number of districts, especially those on the coast. But a win in California combined with good results elsewhere (MO, GA, TN) could give Romney enough of a boost to stay in the race.

  • Delaware (18): All delegates allocated WTA statewide, leans ever so slightly McCain.
Close between Huckabee and McCain

  • Alabama (48): Delegate allocation is mostly proportional, so no one should get a big share of deleagtes here. Romney needs to cross 15% to get some of the delegates and stay in contact.



  • Thanks for the analysis! I didn't think Romney had any chance on Tuesday but there are some scenarios that could make him have a good night. My sense is that it will come down to California. If Romney wins there the media will run with the story that conservatives hate McCain.

    By Anonymous Ron, At 03 February, 2008 16:10  

  • McCain is an absolute abysmal imbosol!! He’s a RHINO republican and tried to shove amnesty down our throat 2 times with "HIS OWN BILL". HE IS FOR TAXING USA companies only to solve a so called GLOBAL warming problem. Well what about the rest of the WORLD? You people drink the kol-aid of the press and are completely UNINFORMED.


    You want to know something else, STUPIDY BREADS ITSELF. You will believe anything someone tells you if you are uninformed and that is what the liberal media is counting on.


    John McCain should be renamed as JUAN McCain. Have you noticed who his heading up his HISPANIC outreach group for this race. If not, Google "McCain and Dr. Juan Hernandez.

    I WILL NOT, SHALL NOT AND CAN NOT VOTE FOR JUAN McCain, I would rather the Republican Party dissolve, period!

    By Blogger Richard75013, At 03 February, 2008 18:06  

  • The republican party has already dissolved. Romney and McCain are both imbeciles.If you want to drink the right-wing kool-aid and vote for Romney,that's great! And stupidity sure does breed itself. (Not fast enough to keep up with the hispanics thankfully.) I think I hit all the mis-spelled words. Democratic party initiative to put education first is a moral imperative.El Ricardo75013 said it all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 February, 2008 18:26  

  • The Republican Party has not dissolved. John McCain is a strong candidate with flaws, but what candidate doesn't have flaws? Mitt Romney is no conservative standard-beared with his ridiculous history. I support John McCain and I believe he's sailing to victory on Tuesday, although it is possible he could get stalled a bit - it's not super likely.

    By Anonymous Steve, At 03 February, 2008 21:45  

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