We are now 70 days from the Iowa Caucus and anyone who is confident about how the Republican primary process will turnout must be filled with hubris (which I concede I was in previous posts.) Newly adopted Republican rules and some understanding of history suggest that we are headed toward massive gridlock, which makes it impossible to predict who will emerge the winner out of the mess.

In 2008, the Republican primary contest was decided quickly and relatively painlessly only because there were winner-take-all rules at the time. Those rules have been changed. If you take the current proportional delegate rules and apply them to the results of the 2008 race through Feb 5th, when the race was still heavily contested, something very surprising happens. John McCain, who took a commanding lead under the winner-take-all rules in effect in most states, instead ends up behind Mitt Romney by eight delegates (with a confidence factor of plus or minus 5 delegates.) The standings, with more than half the delegates decided, would have been as follows.

Romney 439

McCain 431

Huckabee 247

Other 114

Barring a deal between Romney and McCain, no one could have achieved a majority of the delegates and a brokered convention would have been inevitable. Under this allocation and the likely breakdown of delegates in the contests that came after, Huckabee would have been able to choose the nominee and get the Vice Presidential nomination for whomever he wanted.

 This is important for our purposes in examining the current primary contest. If anything, any so-called front-runner in this race is likely to be even weaker than McCain was, particularly by his “inevitability phase.”

We can see this by looking at four insider advantage polls from the four early states Based on these polls, delegates would be allocated as follows:

In Iowa

Cain 9

Romney 7

Other 13

In New Hampshire

Romney 10

Cain 6

Other 7

In South Carolina

Cain 20

Romney 10

Other 20

In Florida

Romney 39

Cain 36

Other 24


Cain 71

Romney 65

Other 64

Of course, it won’t shake out exactly as the polls currently predict, but if it’s at all close
we are headed toward gridlock. To avoid official gridlock, a candidate must win 50 percent of all delegates. That means either Romney or Cain must increase their current delegate takes by nearly 50 percent. At this point, this seems quite unlikely. A brokered convention, as would have happened last time under the same rules, is the better bet.

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