Rick Santorum’s campaign argues it can keep Mitt Romney from winning the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. In a recently released memo, strategist John Patrick Yob contends that unbound delegates “elected by grassroots activists are more likely to favor Santorum than those elected by direct primary [elections].” At a brokered convention, then, those delegates should break Santorum’s way.
But members of Mitt Romney’s campaign dispute that notion: They say projections of delegate totals already incorporate Santorum’s supposed advantage on that score. Take Minnesota. On February 7, Santorum won 44.9 percent of the straw poll at the state’s caucuses, while Ron Paul won 27.1 percent, Romney won 16.9 percent, and Newt Gingrich won 10.8 percent. Although the caucuses were nonbinding, the Associated Press projects that Santorum will control 37 of Minnesota’s 40 delegates, while the two remaining superdelegates will remain uncommitted (the other has endorsed Gingrich). It’s not totally implausible; Santorum won 83 of the 87 counties (Paul won four and tied with Santorum in one), so the AP assumes those areas elected pro-Santorum delegates. Still, the Santorum campaign may have already squeezed as much benefit as it can from this situation.
On a broader level, the Romney aides remain confident their candidate will win the nomination. They point out that Romney needs to win 47 percent of the remaining delegates to get the nod, while Santorum and Gingrich need to win 65 to 70 percent respectively. They also point out Santorum’s organizational troubles: He failed to place on the ballot in Washington, D.C., and he failed to file in four of Illinois’s 18 congressional districts. What’s more, Illinois Republicans directly elect their delegates, and Romney’s team boasts a roster of prominent delegate-candidates such as Senator Mark Kirk and state treasurer Dan Rutherford, who the campaign expects to do well.
The Romney aides also note that with four exceptions, the remaining contests allocate their delegates proportionally, so there are few opportunities for Romney’s rivals to post big, game-changing wins. Those four winner-take-all contests are D.C., Delaware, Utah, and New Jersey — all areas where the Romney camp is optimistic about its chances.
Finally, the aides observe that only about 580 of the remaining delegates are not bound, so there aren’t that many votes left for Santorum to steal.