The Ticket

Checking Santorum’s delegate math: Are Romney’s numbers really inflated?

The Ticket

According to a campaign strategist for Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney doesn't have anywhere near the number of delegates that both his campaign and most media outlets report.

A memo by strategist John Yob, made public Friday morning, claims that the figures from the Associated Press used by both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, are highly inaccurate. Those totals give Romney 658 delegates to Santorum's 281. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trail with 135 and 51, respectively.

Those numbers put Romney well over the halfway mark to the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. But the Santorum memo projects that under certain contingencies, Romney can only count on 571 delegates to Santorum's 342, making the race considerably tighter.

[Related: Poll shows Romney leading in Santorum’s home state]

Yahoo News independently gamed out Yob's scenario and came to the following conclusion: If Santorum can win big in his home state of Pennsylvania, do well in Texas, and win back some delegates from past races due to RNC rule revisions, he only has to hold Romney to about 50 percent of the remaining delegates to force a contested convention. But that is a very optimistic view, and arguably an unrealistic one.

Yob's calculations are very optimistic and assume the candidate could muster significant support from party bigwigs at the convention. His back-of-the-envelope math makes a few assumptions. Here are the three biggest ones:

  • Delegates from Florida, Arizona, and Puerto Rico--winner-take-all states that Romney won--will actually be divvied up proportionally at the convention, since RNC rules required states to assign delegates in this manner if they held a binding contest before April 1. This would dock Romney about 60 delegates and award Santorum about 25.
  • Unbound delegates should not yet be assigned to candidates, even if those delegates have publicly pledged their support.
  • Texas, which votes May 29, will become a winner-take-all state.

The interactive delegate calculator that we debuted earlier this week treated Florida and Arizona as winner-take-all states, which they currently are. But to better examine the Santorum campaign's claim, below we've created a new version that makes those states proportional and makes Texas' 44 at-large delegates winner-take-all. We've also separated out unbound RNC delegates. You can allot those delegates as you wish using the slider at the top. The default figures represent current AP estimates for the so-called "super-delegates," who have publicly endorsed.

By our count, the optimistic assumptions by the Santorum camp should allot Romney 569 delegates to Santorum's 305--still a much better scenario for the former senator. We'll update this interactive after we hear back from Yob with the finer details of his assumptions.

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