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Dustin Hawkins

Upcoming GOP Contests: What to Look For

By March 19, 2012

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Since Super Tuesday, Rick Santorum has notched three state victories to just one for GOP nominee frontrunner Mitt Romney. But a strong win in Kansas and two close wins in Alabama and Mississippi were check-mated by Romney sweeps in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Romney actually starts the post-Super Tuesday run by increasing his delegate margin over Santorum and Gingrich.

Romney Casts His Ballot in MA

Gingrich had a rough week by once again failing to win anywhere, and Santorum's victories in the south were trumpeted by a bizarre decision to make a play for Puerto Rico. Three days of bad press and a 70+ point shellacking later, Santorum aims for yet another comeback. But the upcoming contests will prove very difficult. Here is what we have to look forward to and what to expect:

More Easy Romney Wins

Romney's path to the nomination remains most stable for a few reasons. First, when Romney wins, he often wins big and takes most of the delegates in those contests. When he loses a state, he usually does well enough to pick up a ton of delegates also. This delegate march will likely continue through April. Contests in Maryland, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, New York, and Rhode Island are all tailor-made for Romney, and he will probably win most of those without much effort, racking up a load of delegates on the way. Illinois votes this Tuesday, and polls are pointing to a decent victory for Romney here as well.

Rough Terrain for Santorum/Gingrich

While both Gingrich and Santorum might try to compete in New York, it remains a state that requires a lot of money and resources. They can certainly pick up some delegates, but a victory seems less likely. The other five states previously listed will probably see little of either candidate. This leaves Wisconsin, which only has old polling data available, and Pennsylvania, Santorum's "home" state. While Pennsylvania is a should-win for Santorum, an average of polls has him under 40% there and he will probably need to spend more time and money than he wants to avoid an embarrassment. Making matters worse, a breakdown of the delegate-selection process in Pennsylvania points to the strong possibility that Romney could get most of the delegates in there.

Two Odd Contests

Remember when Rick Santorum "won" the Missouri primary back in early February? Well, that was all for show because state law required it. The "real" Missouri contest is being held in caucus-format for a week, and is actually going on now. On the upside for Rick Santorum, he is likely to win the Missouri caucuses. On the downside, he has already been claiming a Missouri victory for over a month, so it's unlikely much momentum can be gained from winning the same state twice. Additionally, while the primary portion was considered a beauty contest, the caucus portion has been a complete mess thus far, and it will be weeks before the actual victor is known.

The other contest that anyone could win is in Louisiana, which offers half of their delegates through a primary, and the other half through a caucus system (and each does not have to influence the other). The primary and caucus are also held four days apart, because who wouldn't want to vote twice in one week in two different formats? The primary portion of the contest offers delegates proportionally and the race could wind up splitting them evenly among Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney.

More Delegate Math

On March 8th, I released my own calculations of why it would be difficult for anyone to stop Romney. Since then, he has followed that script accordingly by handily winning Puerto Rico under the "winner-take-all" category, taking over 80% of delegates in proportional contests that favored him, and picking up around 25% of the delegates in contests he was not suppose to be competitive in. Through the end of April, it looks as though Romney could land easy victories in seven upcoming contests, while races in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania could still go his way. Currently, Romney's delegate lead over Santorum is in the neighborhood of 279. If Romney continues his current delegate track, that lead will be at least 400 by the end of April.

Photo: Chip Somodeville, Getty Images

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