On Tuesday Rick Santorum won Alabama and Mississippi, Mitt Romney won Hawaii and American Samoa and widened his delegate lead over his rivals. Gingrich finished second in the two Southern States but vowed to fight on.
Gingrich no longer says he can capture the 1,144 delegates required to wrap up the Republican nomination. Instead, he now speaks frankly about a new plan: Keep Romney from getting to 1,144 by the end of the GOP primary season in June, and then start what Gingrich calls a “conversation” about who should be the Republican nominee. That conversation, the plan goes, would lead to a brokered GOP convention at which Gingrich would emerge as the eventual nominee.
Why Gingrich thinks Republicans, who would not give him a majority of their votes, would choose to make him their nominee via a brokered convention remains a mystery. Nevertheless Gingrich fights on. Will Sheldon Adelson continue to fund his Super PAC? Early indications are “no.”
Many have called for Gingrich to get out of the race including Erick Erickson on Wednesday.
Gingrich’s final act could be king maker by getting out and endorsing, but pride cometh before the fall. Gingrich is in mid fall. What a sad end to a brilliant legacy. But his campaign is over. All we need is Haley Joel Osment and M. Night Shyamalan to point out to him he is dead.
With Gingrich still in the race he may succeed in denying Romney the nomination but could Santorum defeat Romney with Gingrich out of the race? As Jennifer Rubin writes:
To be clear, Santorum cannot win the nomination by closely splitting proportional states and losing winner-take-all states. That is a formula for falling further and further behind. And that is what is happening.
Nate Silver, in typical Nate Silver fashion, wrote an exhaustive post on Santorum’s daunting delegate mountian.
Instead, Mr. Santorum’s path to the nomination probably involves generating some real momentum by sweeping just about everything in March — other than perhaps Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the territorial caucuses. If he won Illinois on March 20, for instance, and then followed it up with an April 3 result in which he won Wisconsin clearly and if Maryland was close, that’s about the point in which Mr. Romney would be in extreme danger. It’s not impossible, but Mr. Santorum has a very high bar to clear.
Of course, Romney still has to earn 1144 delegates to close this thing out.
The same proportional allocation of delegates that makes it hard for Santorum to bridge the gap with Romney makes it difficult for the former Massachusetts governor to quickly make the substantial gains that would get him closer to 1,144 and close the door on the GOP race.
Instead, the primary calendar is primed for a war of slow attrition, where candidates can only gradually improve on their vote totals and momentum is increasingly difficult to earn.
Meanwhile, some supporters of Ron Paul are planning on a 3rd Party run for their fearless leader. Paul for his part, isn’t sure he’ll support Romney, should Romney become the nominee. Are we really surprised by that?
I’ve somewhat revamped the RCP Average/Delegate count spreadsheet. The RNC has begun publishing delegate totals as reported by the State and they differ from the various news network delegate estimates.
Missouri will hand out delegates Saturday at their caucus (Santorum won their unofficial primary), Puerto Rico holds a caucus on Sunday and Illinois has a primary with 69 delegates at stake on Tuesday. The most recent poll of Illinois shows Romney with a 4 point lead.
Full disclosure: I’m supporting Rick Santorum.