Saturday, April 28, 2012

GOP race now between Romney and Paul (and it might be closer than you think)

Newt Gingrich announced this week that he planned to end his campaign soon. According to the New York Times, Gingrich told supporters in North Carolina “The campaign will go bye-bye.” Gingrich still trails Rick Santorum and frontrunner Mitt Romney in delegates.

According to the New York Times tally, Gingrich has 137 delegates. With 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination and only 962 delegates remaining, it would have been mathematically impossible for Gingrich to become the nominee.

As Gingrich leaves the race, the Republican presidential primary comes down to Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, and another mathematically eliminated candidate, Rep. Ron Paul. Paul has won an estimated 80 delegates so far. Even if he were to win all remaining delegates he would fall far short of the nomination. The question is why Paul is staying in the race with the numbers stacked against him.

Paul’s strategy appears to be two-fold. In February, Rachel Maddow reported that Paul supporters were mounting a grass roots effort to gain control of delegates in caucus states. Regardless of the straw poll, Paul supporters would simply show up at local precincts and outlast the supporters of the winning candidates. In turn, they would take control of county and state caucuses as well. The strategy is working well in states won by Santorum and Gingrich.

For example, according to the Associated Press, Rick Santorum won the Minnesota primary caucus with 44.9 percent of the vote. Paul placed second with 27.1 percent. However, The Hill reported this week that Paul won 20 of 24 possible delegates and “nearly all” alternate delegates from Minnesota’s district conventions. Thirteen more delegates are at stake in the state convention on May 4 and Paul is likely to win many of these as well.

The second part of Paul’s strategy is to take delegates from Santorum and Gingrich, who have withdrawn from the race. CBS Denver reports that some Santorum supporters are turning to Ron Paul as an anti-Romney protest. The Santorum-Paul alliance won 13 of 18 delegates at the Colorado Republican convention. Colorado is also a caucus state. The Independent Voter Network speculates that Paul might similarly win a majority of delegates in the caucus states of Iowa, Missouri, Washington, and Nevada as well.

Paul’s ultimate strategy seems to be to sway enough delegates to deny Mitt Romney the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination. According to the Independent Voter Network, if no candidate wins on the first ballot all delegates will be released to vote for whomever they choose. This is called a brokered or contested convention. In this case, the convention would become a free-for-all. There is speculation that many of Romney’s delegates might be Ron Paul “sleeper” supporters that would then vote for Rep. Paul on subsequent ballots.

Paul’s covert strategy explains why he is remaining in the race even though he has yet to win a single election. In spite of Paul’s failure to win over Republican voters, he has a chance to become the Republican nominee and the only person standing between Barack Obama and a second term as president.

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