The Republican nomination – still a long way to go

The Romney camp will not uncork their celebratory champagne just yet.

US Republican candidates 390 (photo credit: Reuters)
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 delegates.
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 54.
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.
So, shouldn’t 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 winner-take-all delegates.
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 now.
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, see