Odds of a Brokered Convention Are Increasing

By Sean Trende - February 28, 2012

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North Dakota/Alaska: Again, no polls in these two. Since both states are caucuses (and Pat Robertson actually won Alaska in 1988), I substituted Santorum’s numbers from the Minnesota caucuses here.

Vermont: No polls are available, but I substituted the numbers from Massachusetts.

This would be a pretty brutal stretch for Romney in terms of states actually won and lost, and a good result for Santorum. But because so many states award delegates proportionately, and because Romney does well in the winner-take-all ones like Arizona, Idaho and Virginia (de facto), under this scenario he opens up a substantial delegate lead on Santorum, 349 to 222 (Gingrich would have 97, and Paul 40). No candidate would have a majority of the delegates at that point.

What’s interesting is that from Super Tuesday forward, only 1,580 delegates remain. This means that Romney would have to win 50 percent of the remaining delegates, Santorum would have to win 58 percent, and Gingrich and Paul need around two-thirds of them to reach a majority.

Now, in theory, this should be easier for Romney to do: 434 delegates would be awarded in the South, 389 in the Midwest, 89 in the Mountain West, 194 on the Pacific Coast (including 169 in California), 244 in New England, and 230 in other places (RNC delegates and territorial delegates).

When you consider that a lot of the New England and Pacific states are winner-take-all (or some variant of that), while the Southern and Midwestern states are proportional, Romney’s path becomes clearer.

But he will have just taken a drubbing on Super Tuesday. The headlines will be terrible, which may put downward pressure on his polling numbers in New England or in the Mountain West. That would help Santorum, but winning nearly 60 percent of the remaining delegates is a tall order for him, especially with Gingrich and Paul gobbling up delegates here and there.

In short, I think the Republican primary campaign is an even bigger mess than most realize. I’d increase the odds of a convention where no candidate has a majority of the delegates to around 20 percent. 

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Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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