The fifth Republican primary/caucus just wrapped up in Nevada With Mitt Romney taking his third win. While Romney is generally considered to be the presumptive nominee, Newt Gingrich seems determined to stay in the race just for spite. Ron Paul will likely stay in as well and has a good chance of garnering more support than he did in 2008, particularly in light of his over-performance of expectations in Nevada. We’ve pointed out before that Paul is really running on the Republican ticket as a Libertarian candidate in disguise.
We’ve also surmised that Santorum will eventually have to drop out either because of funding or an abandonment of support. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s say that Santorum is banking on good results by Super Tuesday and absent that will be forced to drop out afterwards.
There is enough data available already to make an extremely rough calculation of the final outcome if these circumstances were to remain unchanged until the last caucuses/primaries in June. Given these circumstances, factoring in regional influences, and projecting percentages of previous races onto future races, we can make a rough picture of how many delegates each candidate would have by the end of primary season. Similar to a fantasy football match.
(Note: This scenario is unlikely to happen because it would be handled long before it could ever come to pass. The Republican party would step in and start making deals with the trailing candidates to drop out and encourage their delegates to get behind Romney to ensure that there is a definitive candidate for the convention.)
Currently; depending on which network’s metric is used (this is CNN’s*), the delegate allocation as of Nevada is as follows:
- Mitt Romney 95 delegates (65%)
- Newt Gingrich 30 delegates (20%)
- Rick Santorum 13 delegates (9%)
- Ron Paul 10 delegates (7%)
Percentage breakdowns will be influenced by:
- Past Performance
- Regional conditions
- Proportional or non-proportional allocation
- Open or closed voting
- Bound or Unbound conditions are not taken into consideration
So, 538Refugees is ready to make an early prediction: Mitt Romney will effectively have the nomination wrapped up by the Missouri caucus on March 17th**.
Here’s the logic behind the argument (download the spread sheet below to play along):
- Identify the remaining states that are winner-take-all for Romney.
- Of the remaining states that have winner-take-all but with a threshold, identify which candidates will meet the threshold and eliminate the others. Allocate the delegates proportionally (this is where I used quite a bit of gut feeling but suffice to say, Mitt got the higher percentage, Newt the next, and Paul got a bump in states with open primaries).
- Assume Santorum is out after Super Tuesday and give his delegates to Gingrich.
Even if anybody else placed in or after the Missouri caucus, no one could catch Romney unless he lost every contest until June. And since Gingrich didn’t even get on the ballot in Missouri, it appears that will be his Waterloo (sorry, Iowa).
Even for the sake of argument, let’s say Rick Santorum stayed in the race. If we continue with the same formula, the race would only be prolonged until April 3rd when Romney would mop the floor with Maryland, Wisconsin, and D.C. no matter how well anyone else performed in Texas.
So download the spread sheet below and play with the figures. See what other outcomes are possible. For now, it looks like the general campaign begins in mid-March.
* NBC’s delegate count differs. Also, it isn’t yet clear whether or not Florida’s delegates will be forced to be proportional or not. It’s also assumed Jon Huntsman’s two delegates will go to Romney.
** The March 17th Missouri caucus is not the same as the February 7th Missouri ‘beauty pageant’ primary. Only the delegates from the caucus are sent to the convention.
- Gingrich’s Southern revival strategy (cnn.com)