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Odds of a Brokered Convention Are Increasing

Odds of a Brokered Convention Are Increasing

By Sean Trende - February 28, 2012


We're finally close enough to Super Tuesday to get a sense of how the overall delegate count might work out in the GOP primary. The end result: Assuming that none of the four candidates drops out of the race, it looks increasingly as if no one will be able to claim a majority of the delegates. The candidate with the best chance is Mitt Romney, but he probably wouldn't be able to wrap up the nomination until May or even June. The other candidates will probably have to hope for a brokered convention.

What I’ve done to reach this conclusion is take the delegate calculator I put together a few weeks ago and put the RCP Averages for the upcoming states (where available) into it (I’ve allocated undecideds evenly among the four candidates). I’ve then allocated the congressional districts in the following manner:

Michigan: Regardless of what happens, the two at-large delegates will be awarded one apiece to Romney and Rick Santorum. I allocated the congressional districts evenly as well; Romney will probably do well in southeast Michigan, while Santorum is stronger in the rest of the state.

Arizona: Little suspense here. Romney leads by a large margin in the polls, and will collect all of the delegates.

Washington: There hasn’t been much polling here, but Santorum has generally performed well in the caucus states. PPP confirms this, with a poll showing Santorum leading in Washington state. In terms of congressional districts, Romney probably still has some strength in the urban districts around Seattle -- even when getting blown out in South Carolina he was able to win the urban 1st District, so we will give him three delegates.

Georgia: Romney is running third in Georgia polling right now, with Newt Gingrich leading in his home state. Gingrich will probably take most of the congressional districts, but we’ll also assume that Romney picks up one of the urban Atlanta districts, and that Santorum can upset Gingrich in one of the other districts.

Ohio: Santorum’s Midwestern strength shows through here, and he leads in the polls by a seven-point margin. But the interesting thing about Ohio is that the blue-collar/Democratic vote has been gerrymandered into a few heavily Democratic districts, while suburban areas are disproportionately represented. In a close race (less than double digits), Romney could end up taking the most delegates while losing the state. Regardless, we’ll split the districts evenly between Romney and Santorum.

Tennessee: We only have one recent poll here, from a less-than-prolific pollster. It shows Santorum up big. How things work out at the congressional district level is still anyone’s guess, because Tennessee is such a big, diverse state. We’ll assume that Romney breaks through in one of the more urbanized districts (a la South Carolina), and that Santorum takes the rest.

Virginia: It’s just Romney and Ron Paul here, and the polling shows the former with a big lead. To be fair, just as I’ve allocated Romney a district in states he’s likely to lose, I’ve assumed Paul will win one in Virginia.

Oklahoma: Polling here shows Romney in third. Santorum’s lead is big enough that we can safely assume that he’ll win all of the congressional districts.

Massachusetts: Unsurprisingly, the Suffolk poll has Romney up big here, so he should take virtually all of the delegates.

Idaho: We don’t have polls here, but this is the nation’s second most-heavily-Mormon state. We’ll assume Romney does well here, and so I used his Arizona numbers.

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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 strende@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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