As the picture stays foggy, Mitt Romney’s delegate advantage plays bigger: after months of none too successfully projecting inevitability, he’s now really got it, even as GOP voters have remained cool to him. Both he and Rick Santorum are using the same delegate numbers to claim that time is on their side. Romney’s point: his rivals have no chance of winning the most delegates. Santorum’s point: Romney may end up with the most delegates, but he has no clear path to the majority of 1,144 needed to claim the nomination—and that leaves him vulnerable at a contested convention. They may both be right.
Romney’s argument is the simple truth that he has more delegates and there’s no probable way that Santorum can catch up. In the modern era, this is how primaries work: one candidate builds a strong lead and his rivals eventually concede. But, unfortunately for Romney, Santorum is an old-fashioned kind of guy, and the new rules this year could reward him for sticking around.
Santorum’s campaign issued a memo this morning, saying that “the Romney math doesn’t add up, and he will have a very difficult time getting to a majority of the delegates … Simply put, time is on our side.” The memo points to examples like the county conventions in Iowa over the weekend, where Santorum says Romney collapsed and he, along with Ron Paul, gained.
So both candidates see a plod. Romney’s path ends with his opponents making way for his inevitable first-place finish, and an efficiency advantage in just ending the nomination battle early rather than taking it through to the bitter end. Santorum takes a second-place position into the convention, where he then claims a majority of delegates over a run of floor fights and multiple ballots, no matter the cost to the party. Just as in their politics, when it comes to process, Romney versus Santorum is a fight between the technocrat and the moralist.
By Ben Jacobs