1144 delegates are needed to gain the nomination.
Is the race over?
Well, it depends on your assumptions about the race going forward.
Assumptions very favorable to Santorum in the analysis below:
1) Anti-Romney vote consolidates behind Santorum (Gingrich may eventually get out but Paul is not)
2) Santorum wins 2/3 of delegates in state friendly to him (more conservative) with proportional allotments
3) Santorum wins 1/2 of delegates in closely contested states with proportional allotments
4) Romney wins 2/3 of delegates in locations friendly to him (Northeast and purple states) with proportional allotments
5) Some of the "winner-take-all" are split between winner take all by district and statewide and since I'm not a political professional, I don't know how that actually shakes out in the distribution so I treat them as proportional assuming Santorum would win conservative rural districts and Romney wins less conservative urban/suburban districts which would be likely in a state like California.
In any event, as you can see below in the table, under the very optimistic scenario of the five assumptions above, Santorum could garner enough delegates to deny the nomination to Romney. Thus, the top two would try to get the support of Gingrich and Paul delegates to clear the 1144 number.
However, I suspect it would be difficult for Santorum to gain the nomination if he is about 100 delegates behind which is what is in the projections below. Thus, ultimately, for him to succeed, he will have to exceed the projections listed below.
The next handful of contests are on ground favorable to Santorum. If he picks up wins in those states at the 2 to 1 ratio projected, he will have reason to continue.
I suspect key tests will be Illinois, Wisconsin and Maryland. If Santorum can't garner a clear win in those, Romney keeps racking up delegates in the march to 1144 with Santorum still playing catch up.
April 24 could be the end of the line for Santorum if he only gets 50-50 out of Pennsylvania and loses New York outright.
May 8 is also crucial because Santorum at some point has to outperform the projections listed below.
The June 5 California and New Jersey primaries could put Romney officially over the 1144 number if he does very well or at least bring him so close to 1144 such that it is essentially numerically over.
Anyway, the blueprint is below. Santorum must exceed the projections below to have a realistic chance to get the nomination. On the other hand, Romney needs to exceed the projections below to put away Hugh Hewitt's "zombie" scenario beyond a reasonable doubt. However, one would suspect even then, some in the main stream media will still insist the zombie still stalks the night...
Sorry the table looks off. I'm afraid my knowledge of HTML is somewhat limited.
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Is the race over?
Using a basketball analogy, the first quarter is over and Romney's team has a comfortable lead.
Can they still lose the game?
Of course, one can't say with 100% certainty that all five starters on the team won't sprain an ankle thus allowing the other team to get back into the game.
UPDATE: I know that Nate Silver at the NYTimes is the professional in these matters. I did my analysis before looking at his to see if I would come to similar conclusions. To see Silver's number go here. We agree that the path for Santorum is very difficult.