Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Newt Gingrich- Weakening Romney, or Helping?

Wow. Two years, almost, since I made a post here.

Well, I can log in here again, easily now, so I'm going to move my political posts back here from LiveJournal and Twitter... beginning with this one, about Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich recently did a radio show interview in which he compared his part in the current 2012 Republican primaries as part of a tag-team against Mitt Romney.

"There's a certain advantage, I think right now, in having both of us tag-team Romney because neither one of us by ourselves can raise the money to match Romney," he said. "With Rick [Santorum] and me together, we're really slowing him down with some help frankly from Ron Paul."

Now, the flat fact of the matter is this: Gingrich's position presumes that, if he were not in the race, those donating to him would sit on their hands rather than donate to Rick Santorum's campaign. More to the point, it presumes that Gingrich's continued presence in the race does NOT split the ultra-conservative vote enough to help Romney win delegates he otherwise wouldn't have. This despite polling that shows about two-thirds of Gingrich supporters would switch to Santorum if he wasn't on the ballot, plus election returns showing that Gingrich simply is not a viable candidate anywhere outside the deep South.

So (because I wanted to postpone an urgent but extremely tedious job) I spent a couple hours going through the Republican primaries and caucuses thus far, estimating what would change in races had Gingrich dropped out before Iowa and thrown his support to Santorum. For purposes of this exercise, I was VERY generous and gave Romney the one-third of Gingrich votes that Santorum didn't get, i. e. I presumed that no Gingrich voter would support Ron Paul or stay home.

Beginning with the current (not including Samoa, Hawaii, Alabama or Mississippi, today's contests) total delegate count as estimated by The Green Papers:

PAUL: 75

Now, only covering those contests where Gingrich's departure, and the above presumed 2-1 split in his support between Santorum and Romney, change the outcomes of states:

It's very difficult to do more than guess at how many actual delegates each candidate will have from non-binding caucus states until the state conventions later in the year. Presuming a direct proportionate split with no minimum support, we can look at five states where Gingrich might have some delegates coming to him and split his support- Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington. Splitting his support gives Romney about one-third of his voters, and maybe six additional delegates. Santorum, getting 2/3 of Gingrich's supporters, would pick up eleven. In a Romney v. All-Not-Romneys contest, that's a net gain of 6 for Romney.


In Nevada, where the vote count is binding on delegate selection, Gingrich's six delegates would split four-two Santorum to Romney- or, again, a net gain of two for Romney v. Not-Romney. In North Dakota, the sliver of Gingrich supporters going to Romney isn't enough to score an extra delegate, so Santorum basically gets both of Gingrich's delegates there.

Gingrich getting out on the terms I just mentioned doesn't quite put Santorum over Romney's vote total. Since Florida was winner-take-all, Romney still gets all 50 of Florida's delegates, and nothing changes.

This is Gingrich's home, so taking him off the ballot actually helps ROMNEY in delegate count. With Gingrich's support split Romney actually wins a couple of congressional districts outright, sweeping their delegates. On the other hand, he loses odd delegates in some other districts by Santorum taking a clear majority of the vote absent Gingrich By my estimate, Romney gets a net gain of four delegates in Georgia, absent Gingrich.


Distributing Gingrich's support in Tennessee splits his statewide proportional delegates six to Santorum, four to Romney- another gain against Not-Romney voters.


With Gingrich out, thanks to the effects of 20% threshhold, his three delegates end up splitting evenly between Romney, Santorum, and Ron Paul- a one-vote gain for Romney over Not-Romney.

And this, friends, is where the good news for Romney ends.


Santorum shot himself in the foot by coming up eighteen delegates short on his roster in Ohio- which meant, in the districts where he didn't fill the roster, he couldn't earn those delegates. Ironically, the district in which Santorum did best with the voters- the 6th Congressional District- he had NO DELEGATES AT ALL. He could have won all three there with Gingrich out of the race. Still, even with this handicap, the shift of Gingrich support would have won Santorum the overall statewide vote, with a net gain of three delegates from Romney to Santorum. (Exact math is nearly impossible, since vote totals by congressional district don't seem to be available.)


Likewise, with Gingrich out, Santorum picks up one more Congressional district in that state, for another two-delegate swing.


With Gingrich in, Santorum fell just barely below the 20% threshhold to get delegates in that state. With Gingrich out, Santorum crosses the line and qualifies- and takes six delegates away from Romney.


And here's the REAL big shift. Oklahoma was almost a three-way tie. With Gingrich out, Santorum gets a clear majority both statewide and in each Congressional district- meaning, without Gingrich, Santorum would have SWEPT all delegates in that state, taking THIRTEEN delegates out of the Romney column.

All told, with Gingrich out and his support split 2-1 between Santorum and Romney, Romney loses a net eleven delegates, while Santorum picks up 135- two more than Gingrich's absolute total.

In this hypothetical, the delegate estimate would be:

PAUL: 76

Put another way:

451-407 with Gingrich running, 440-410 without

All in all, not a huge difference... but one that favors Romney.

And with Georgia now in the past, it's more and more likely, as time goes on, to favor Romney.

One other note, though: when the race is taken as Romney v. Not-Romney, Romney's lead is NOT all that insurmountable. A "brokered convention" looks more and more likely if Romney can't produce some blowout wins...

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