Two Ele­phants Cross­wise to Each Other

Super Tues­day and the sub­se­quent March 10 and 13 pri­maries and cau­cuses clar­i­fied one thing: it’s now a two-​​man race.

Past Stam­ped­ing Ele­phants arti­cles, going back to last May, focused on the Repub­li­can field. In that first iter­a­tion, for­mer Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Mitt Rom­ney was in first place, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich in eighth, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Paul (R-​​Lake Jack­son, TX) in ninth. For­mer Sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum (R-​​PA) did not break the one per­cent thresh­old on Intrade to appear in our rank­ings until our Jan­u­ary 5 arti­cle, when he debuted in third place.

Now, from an ever-​​changing field of nine can­di­dates, only two remain, and that’s not a field. Instead, this new ver­sion of the series will focus on the del­e­gate math, and the elec­tion prospects of Rom­ney, NotRom­ney, and Not­NotRom­ney, based on Real Clear Pol­i­tics polling aver­ages, Intrade odds, and head-​​to-​​head polling data with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

For­mer Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Mitt Romney

Romney’s Real Clear Pol­i­tics polling aver­age this week dropped four points to 34 per­cent, but he still holds a five-​​point lead over San­to­rum. On Intrade, he’s hold­ing at an 87 per­cent chance, unchanged from last week. He has 495 del­e­gates, or 43 per­cent of the nec­es­sary total to clinch the nom­i­na­tion. (Del­e­gate count esti­mates are from The New York Times via the Asso­ci­ated Press.) He loses to Pres­i­dent Obama 48–44 in RCP polling aver­ages for the last nine days.

For­mer Sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum (R-​​PA)

San­to­rum improved in both RCP weekly polling aver­ages (29 per­cent, up three points) and on Intrade (five per­cent chance of secur­ing the nom­i­na­tion, up one point). Still, a one-​​in-​​twenty chance is noth­ing to write home about. He has an esti­mated 252 del­e­gates (22 per­cent of the needed total), or just about half of the num­ber esti­mated for Rom­ney. He loses to Pres­i­dent Obama 50–42 in aver­aged polls.

As of late last night, Jeb Bush and Ron Paul are tied with just under two per­cent on Intrade. More about their chances after the cut.

This is clearly Romney’s nom­i­na­tion, bar­ring some unforseen dis­as­ter. Let’s exam­ine some del­e­gate math. Accord­ing to the Asso­ci­ated Press esti­mates, there are 2,286 del­e­gates. That means a major­ity on the first bal­lot would require a can­di­date to have 1,144 del­e­gates. As of today, 928 del­e­gates have been allo­cated and 1,358 del­e­gates are left.

Rom­ney has 495 del­e­gates, so he needs 48 per­cent of the remain­ing avail­able del­e­gates to secure a first-​​ballot nom­i­na­tion. He has obtained 54 per­cent of the avail­able del­e­gates so far, so even if he falls some off the pace he has an excel­lent chance.

San­to­rum has 252 del­e­gates, so he needs two-​​thirds of the remain­ing avail­able del­e­gates to secure a first-​​ballot nom­i­na­tion. He has 27 per­cent of the del­e­gates so far, and he has main­tained that pace through­out the process, even with states favor­able to him in the Mid­west and South already in his pocket. Many of the remain­ing states with large del­e­gate allo­ca­tions (Illi­nois, New York, Cal­i­for­nia) will be tough sled­ding for him, while Texas should give him a boost. His path to the nom­i­na­tion is not impos­si­ble, but it does almost cer­tainly run through a con­ven­tion that extends to mul­ti­ple ballots.

It’s nearly impos­si­ble for Gin­grich and Paul at this point: Gin­grich would need to get three-​​quarters of the remain­ing avail­able del­e­gates and Paul would need a ridicu­lous 81 per­cent. Nei­ther out­come is at all likely. Their main role would be to deny a nom­i­na­tion to Rom­ney on the first ballot.

If a can­di­date does not secure the nom­i­na­tion on the first bal­lot, then it’s called a “bro­kered con­ven­tion”. The com­mit­ted del­e­gates are released and may vote for whom they wish. This used to be the norm, but has not hap­pened to Democ­rats since 1952 (when Adlai Steven­son was awarded the nom­i­na­tion, hav­ing been drafted at the con­ven­tion and elected on the third bal­lot) or Repub­li­cans since 1948 (Thomas Dewey was also elected on a third bal­lot). Most polit­i­cal junkies have sur­mised that in the age of tele­vi­sion, a bro­kered con­ven­tion is about as unde­sir­able as global ther­monu­clear war.

There are 26 polit­i­cal units left until the last del­e­gate selec­tion in Utah June 26. The Repub­li­can National Con­ven­tion begins in Tampa August 27. If, through some mis­ad­ven­ture, Rom­ney does not have 1,144 del­e­gates securely in his camp, one can be sure the two months between the last del­e­gate selec­tion and the con­ven­tion will be filled with the deal-​​making nec­es­sary to ensure some­one will pre­vail on the first bal­lot, if for no other rea­son than to avoid an unscripted tele­vi­sion spec­ta­cle. Rick San­to­rum can pro­pose that teleprompters be banned:

I’ve always believed that when you run for Pres­i­dent of the United States, it should be ille­gal to read off a teleprompter, because all you’re doing is read­ing some­one else’s words to people.

One won­ders if Santorum’s del­e­gates will force through a rules amend­ment that bans the use of teleprompters by the even­tual Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. That would be appoint­ment television.