US Republican candidates 390.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The “Super Tuesday” Republican primary results are in, and the headlines for
Mitt Romney are good. Romney won six of Tuesday’s 10 contested states and the
lion’s share of delegates in play – quite a comeback from where he was in the
polls just a week ago. Many pundits have all but declared Romney the presumptive
nominee due to his victories in now 14 of 23 states and his expanding lead in
But Super Tuesday this year was not designed to seal the fates
of the candidates; a close examination reveals that the nomination process is a
complex one, and there are reasons why the Romney camp will not uncork their
celebratory champagne just yet.
In all, there will be 2,286 delegates
choosing the nominee; thus 1,144 delegates are needed to win. Following
Tuesday’s results, Romney so far has won 56 percent of the delegates chosen; he
now has 354. Rick Santorum has 147; Newt Gingrich 87; and Ron Paul
Romney is also by far the best-funded of the candidates and also has
the most comprehensive network of support.
How important is that?
Consider that in Virginia, neither Santorum nor Gingrich qualified to be on the
ballot. In Ohio, where Romney won narrowly, Santorum could not satisfy the
ballot requirements in districts electing 17 delegates.
Gingrich won only
in his home state, and has little national organization.
Romney be able to coast to the nomination? Not so fast. A number of variables
will affect the final vote tally. First, the primaries so far have been mostly
those which allocate delegates proportionally to vote totals. But big late
primaries – still about three months away – are winner- take-all: California
(172 delegates – a full 15% of the total required to win), New Jersey (50), Utah
(40) and Texas (155 – winner-take-all if any candidate wins 50% of the vote).
Wisconsin, Delaware, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico account for another 138
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Considering the roller-coaster polling so far,
it is not implausible that a Gingrich or Santorum surge could win most or all of
those 555 delegates.
Another wild-card is that 16 of the remaining
contests are “open,” meaning Democrats and Independents can also vote. And yet
another factor is that 117 “Superdelegates” (appointed by the party, not elected
by the voters) are unbound, free to vote for whomever they like. In addition,
340 delegates elected by state conventions and congressional districts are not
legally bound to any single candidate.
As for the funding and
organizational deficits of the non-Romney candidates, that, too, can change.
Court decisions have empowered donors to create the “Super PAC” – technically
independent of any campaign, but which can raise unlimited funds to advocate for
a particular candidate.
Through this vehicle, for example, the Gingrich
candidacy has been single-handedly kept afloat by Sheldon Adelson’s $11 million
in contributions. Who knows what funding surprises may await the other
candidates? Or if Adelson will pull the plug on his funding? Furthermore, it may
yet happen that, if their prospects dim, either Gingrich or Santorum withdraws
from the campaign.
If one throws his support behind the other, that would
dramatically alter the landscape.
I hope that’s all clear
What seems to have given the edge so far to Romney is the perception
that he is the most electable candidate in terms of defeating President Obama in
November. There is a division of opinion regarding whether this long, bruising
campaign is damaging any candidate’s electability; in all likelihood, by
November, the primary fights will be a distant memory, and all candidates will
rally around the nominee. Primary fights are typically bitter, but rarely do
lasting damage to any candidacy.
Pro-Israel voters should note that any
of the three leading Republicans would, if elected, likely become the most pro-
Israel president in history. All three have extensive pro-Israel credentials
that go well beyond the convenient electionyear “charm offensive” we’re
currently seeing from the White House.
So, keep the champagne on ice. We
still have a long way to go.The writer is an American attorney and
political commentator living in Israel. He serves as counsel to Republicans
Abroad Israel.US citizens in Israel are eligible to vote by absentee
ballot in their state’s presidential primary. For registration and information,
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