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Third in a series of diaries on Mitt Romney's delegate math. (#3)


I currently project that Mitt Romney will win no more than 914 delegates which is 230 short of what he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. This nomination is in the hands of "unbound" delegates. Many more delegates are released after 1 ballot, some after 2.

For information on the projection and purpose of this diary, as well as me "showing my work," see below.

Two major revisions in this version are a downward revision of Mitt's delegate number to 914 from 952 based on a poll from Texas showing him below the threshold require to win congressional district delegates there. Recent other polling, especially Michigan, saw Romney pick up a handful over the last projection, but he still suffers a net loss of -38.


The purpose of this series of diaries has been to analyze, based on the current state of things whether Mitt Romney has enough delegates to win a first-ballot nomination, given a scenario favorable to him. Depending on results as they happen, I may change the purpose of this diary.

The purpose of this series of diaries is not to accurately project the final delegate tally. Bias is deliberately built in at each step to make results favor Romney so that the projection is an "upper limit" to test whether Romney can get a first-ballot nomination.

The purpose of this series of diaries is not to assess what the likelihood of Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, or Newt Gingrich being the nominee is. These are separate questions. It seems unlikely to me that even with only a plurality of delegates, Romney wouldn't be the nominee. He simply has to accept the best offer to get whatever amount of delegates he needs to win. Vice President Santorum? Supreme Court Justice Ron Paul? Who knows? This accommodation could occur before the convention.

There is also added uncertainty due to the "penalty" assessed on the states that held "winner-take-all" primaries early. It is entirely conceivable that the "Automatic" delegates (that's Republican for Superdelegate) or others, even if they are not Romney supporters, could, for example, vote to reinstate the delegates from those states and put Romney over the top. Back room deal? Absolutely!

The truth is that no one knows what the real delegate total is even at this moment, nor can they, because many are unbound and may change their mind. In fact, even if a deal is struck, the "unbound" delegates could revolt and reject it. This makes projections even flimsier. What's more, there are so many delegates that are assigned at conventions, that shenanigans are possible--apparent even at this stage (see, e.g., Maine). The only ones we can be sure about are pledged delegates from winner-take-all states. But this diary isn't about an accurate tally overall. It's about whether Mitt can win under reasonably constructed circumstances based on present conditions.

Finally, a certain number of delegates haven't really been decided yet. These state conventions could start getting really interesting the more critical they become.

Some Terms Defined

"Bound delegates" are those delegates that are legally required to vote for the candidate to whom they are assigned. Some bound delegates are what we might think of as "Superdelegates," some are selected at state conventions or district caucuses. Depending on the state, they may be bound for 1, 2, or 3 ballots, or, "until released [by the candidate]." Candidates that are not legally bound are in some states called "morally bound." I do not count those as "bound delegates."

"Automatic Delegates" are delegates who are the 3 RNC members for each state or territory. Most times—but not always—they are unbound.

"Unbound Delegates" are delegates who may vote for whomever they please. Sometimes they are the RNC members from the state or territory, sometimes they are all of a state's delegates, or sometimes a portion. Some are selected from the grassroots, some are not.

It is important to note that delegates that are almost always selected at state conventions. Quite often, there is no reason other than the delegates selected to the state convention require it, that the number of delegates sent to the RNC will be apportioned how the caucus results occurred, especially in states where the delegates are unbound.

If the result at the end is contingent on a handful of unbound delegates, I can see all kinds of chaos.


Based on the work done in my first two diaries, I have refined my methodology. The rules for each state are based on this document from the RNC Counsel's office.

Most states aren't even polled at all. Those that are are almost never polled by congressional district. Yet in many states, delegates are selected based on who wins the most votes in a congressional district.

1. In winner-take-all states where there is no state poll, I assign all of the state's delegates to Mitt. This distorts the result in favor of Romney intentionally.

2. In winner-take-all states where there is a state poll and Romney is polling within the margin of error of a plurality, I assign all of the state's delegates to Mitt. This, again, distorts the results in favor of Romney intentionally.

3. In proportional states where there is a poll, I simply assign the number of delegates based on the state poll numbers, rounding up. For example, if the state has 15 delegates and Romney is polling at 33% in the state, I assign him 5 delegates.

4. In proportional states where there is no poll, I simply assign the number of delegates based on Romney's national poll numbers, rounding up. For example, if the state has 15 delegates and Romney is polling at 33% nationally, I assign him 5 delegates. The rounding up slightly biases the poll in favor of Romney.

5. In states where delegates are awarded partially on a winner-take-all basis, I award the winner-take-all delegates according to Rules 1 and 2.

6. In states where there are delegates awarded on a Congressional-district-level winner take all basis, I nevertheless assign the delegates according to Rules 3 and 4.

7. I assign all unbound Automatic delegates to Romney. This intentionally distorts the results in favor of Romney, but I provide a total both without them and with them proportionally assigned. Only 117 GOP "Automatic" delegates are unbound. (That's Republican for "Superdelegate".)

8. I use the delegate estimates from states that have already reported their results that are most favorable to Romney.

9. I assign Hunstman's delegates to Romney as his endorsee.

N.B. Some states have percentage thresholds below which no delegates are earned. Sometimes this is statewide. I only account for this in states with polling, e.g. Texas.

I am currently using a weighted average of 30% as the national polling number, again, to the high side of what is real at this very instant, based on the TPM Polling Average.


Here are some current delegate counts:

DCW Bound Count: Romney 91
DCW Projeceted Count: Romney 123
CNN: Romney 127
RCP: Romney 98

There are 2,286 total delegates. 1,144 are needed to win. Romney current has 134, including CNN's projection of 11 for Maine. There are 2,038 remaining, meaning Romney must win 43.4% of those left.



29 delegates, all bound but not legally for 1 ballot. (Penalized 29 delegates).

Projection: 29 bound.

Winner-take all


30 delegates, penalized 29. Delegates bound for 1 ballot. Statewide delegates are proportional for those over 15% threshold. Winner-take-all on a CD basis. Gingrich is currently below the threshold.

Projection: 11 bound.


43 total delegates. 3 RNC, 30 CD and 10 statewide. 40 are bound for 1 ballot. Chosen at state convention on May 30-June 2.

Projection: 13 potential bound, 3 unbound = 16.


27 total delegates. 3 RNC, 3 CD and 21 statewide. The statewide delegates are apparently really proportional. Delegates are bound for 2 ballots.

Projection: 8 bound, 3 unbound = 11.


32 total delegates. 3 RNC, 6 by convention and 23 CD and statewide. Only 23 are bound for 1 ballot, 9 unbound, including 3 RNC. 23 are proportional from caucus with a 15% threshold. 6 are selected at state convention on June 21-23, 2012. Automatic delegates are bound. You would think Mitt would outperform his national polling here, but I don't have any data for that.

Projection: 8 bound, 9 unbound = 18.


41 total. 3 RNC, 27 CD, and 11 statewide. Proportional by CD with 15% threshold (what a mess). Statewide proportional with a 15% threshold. As with Idaho, I expect Mitt will outperform his national polling here, but I also have no data.

Projection: 13 bound, 3 unbound = 16.

North Dakota

28 delegates. 3 RNC, 3 CD and 22 statewide. All delegates unbound, elected at state convention.

Projection: 11 unbound.


66 delegates that are "morally" bound. 3 RNC, 48 CD, and 15 state-wide. Winner take all for statewide delegates if candidate gets 50% otherwise proportional with a 20% threshold. CD are winner take all.

Projected: 24 unbound.


43 delegates. 3 RNC, 40 bound until released with 25 statewide and 15 CD. 15% threshold in statewide and CD but 50% is winner take all in CD and at-large.
Latest poll: Gingrich 34, Romney 31, Santorum 15.

Projected: 15 bound, 3 unbound = 18.


58 delegates, 55 bound for 2 ballots. 3 RNC, 27 CD, 28 statewide. At-large has a 20% threshold, but winner-take-all if >66%. In CDs, >66% = winner-take-all. If top candidate has 20-66% of the vote, winner gets 2, second place gets 1, unless second place has less than 20%, then winner-take all. If winner is less than 20%, top 3 candidates each get 1 delegate.

Projection: 24 bound, 3 unbound = 27.


17 delegates. 3 RNC, 3 CD, 11 statewide. AL are proportional for all candidates over 20%, winner take all if over 50%. CD winner take all.

Projection: 4 bound, 3 unbound = 7.


49 delegates. 3 RNC, 33 CD, 13 AL. Proportional for candidates over 15%; winner-take-all for 50.001% or more. CD winner take all. Santorum and Gingrich are not on the ballot.

Projection: 46 bound, 3 unbound = 49 (Winner take all if over 50%).

Beyond Super Tuesday:

WY    10
KS    14
VI    3
GU    3
AL    16
AS    3
HI    6
MS    13
MO    18
PR    23
IL    23
LA    9
MD    13


155 total delegates. 3 RNC, 108 CD, and 44 AL. 153 bound for 3 ballots. Proportional. CD proportional with 20% threshold. Latest poll: Romney 16%.

Not above threshold for CD delegates.

Projection: 7 bound, 3 unbound = 10 delegates.

TX    52
DC    16
WI    13
CT    9
DE    17
NY    31
PA    24
RI    6
IN    9
NC    19
WV    10
NE    11
OR    9
AR    11
KY    14
CA    57
MT    9
NJ    17
NM    7
SD    9
UT    40
NI    3

Total: 914. Includes all types of delegates.


(1) Romney must begin winning at least 44% of delegates from each state now or else he will not achieve a first-ballot nomination.

(2) The presidential nomination process is in need of major rationalization and democratization in both parties. The rules are beyond Byzantine. They are Talmudic if I might coin a term. The voters, even in closed primaries and caucuses, will not decide this nomination; party insiders will.

Tue Feb 21, 2012 at  8:23 AM PT: I might or might not do it, but I would be very interested to see people reporting from the state conventions. All hell could break loose at those conventions if people are organized.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

    by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 04:37:31 PM PST

  •  Good work. Interesting analysis. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, mdmslle, Attorney at Arms

    Check out my new blog Romney the Liar right here.

    by Yosef 52 on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 05:07:54 PM PST

  •  Idaho (3+ / 0-)

    Everything I've seen and heard here indicates that Romney will win two thirds of the Mormon vote, Paul will win the other third, and Santorum will win big among everybody else. That puts them about dead even. In my own county, I actually don't know of a single GOPer who's rooting for Romney besides two Mormon couples.

    -8.88, -4.21 Why does the most beautiful place in the world (Idaho Panhandle) have to get dumped with thousands of Cali GOP doofuses?

    by Whitty on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 05:34:11 PM PST

  •  Great analysis. As far as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mdmslle, Attorney at Arms

    Texas goes, I wouldn't read anything into current polls, since no one knows when the hell we'll get around to having a primary. It could be as late as mid-June -- and, given the volatility in this nomination contest, the polls could change 10 times before then.

    •  I agree. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think he will at least hit the 20% viability threshold in some of the CDs. But, at the end of the day, he's still not on course for a first-ballot nomination.

      In my humble opinion, he has about 1 week to turn this ship around. If he loses Arizona and Michigan, I am changing this to Ricky's Math.

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 05:46:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One week sounds about right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Attorney at Arms

        This simply doesn't feel like an equilibrium. Either Romney will have a great week, pick up MI and AZ, and deal a fatal blow on Super Tuesday, or he'll be irreparably wounded before long. If the latter, all bets are off. Perhaps it's because I wasn't alive in 1968 and thus know only the quick, painless post-reform nomination contests -- but I still have a lot of trouble believing that Republican insiders will allow the contest to go all the way to the first ballot without having determined a consensus nominee around whom to throw a 4-day celebratory coronation. But how they get there if Santorum's surge continues is anyone's guess -- and I, for one, relish the thought of them trying to figure it out.

        •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There are only a few circumstances where I can see the convention actually going forward that way. One is where the polls show Obama so far ahead that everyone jumps ship to save the House (or try to).

          Most likely, no matter what the result is after the last delegate is selected (or the critical delegate is selected), some kind of deal will have to be struck.

          But the trouble I have with assuming the Super Tuesday knockout scenario is that the only constant in this GOP race has been wild changes. I have no reason to argue that Frothmentum won't engender as much buyer's remorse as all of the past frontrunners have. In fact, I'm pretty sure it will.

          The question is then, whether all of these swings are likely to produce someone with 1144 delegates, or some deal that combines enough to do it.

          And, I should add, a deal would have to be for pledged delegates somehow. I could see the unbound delegates revolting and choosing someone else.

          GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

          by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:15:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Fantastic as always. (3+ / 0-)

    Under the best circumstance Romney barely breaks 900. That leave an awful lot of delegates on the table.

    I've become re-radicalized. Thanks a lot you bunch of oligarchical fascist sons-of-bitches. But once again, I have no choice. Bring it the fuck on.

    by mdmslle on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 05:47:00 PM PST

  •  This reminds me of ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Attorney at Arms, BleacherBum153

    ... when I first came across diaries by poblano (aka Nate Silver) four years ago.  Right about this same time in the cycle, matter of fact, shortly before Super Tuesday.

    I'm following you now.  Interesting work that I want to see more of.

    I've been reading a book about the Teapot Dome scandal of late.  Warren Harding emerged from a contentious and divided nominating process with little support or attention on him before the convention.  It's got me attuned to the possibilities that could emerge without a clear nominee.  (This is where Ron Paul matters, for example, holding enough nominees to deny a majority to any of the others.)

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 06:30:32 PM PST

    •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Land of Enchantment

      But I don't have the knowledge of statistics Nate does at all. If I did, I would be running projections instead of outcome-biased test scenarios.

      I do remember, however, that about this time in 2008, we could see clearly that Obama was going to win barring some major change in course. That's the difference here. Barring some change in course, Mitt isn't on that same kind of path.

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:17:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  More recent Oklahoma poll (3+ / 0-)

    More bad news for Rmoney:

    Santorum 39
    Romney 23
    Gingrich 18
    RON PAUL 8
    Undecided 13

    I guess that would strip off a few more delegates from Romney.

    Good, quick, cheap. Choose two.

    by Danack on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 06:58:46 PM PST

    •  Isn't it weird that Romney wins states that Obama (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MKSinSA, Attorney at Arms

      will easily win, and struggles in places like the South that are notoriously red? I've never seen such distaste for a political candidate.
      How will he fare in the General especially since Obama will start playing in AZ & GA to turn 'em blue?

      Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth's sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.-Louisa May Alcott

      by YoungArizonaLiberal on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 07:15:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sitting President (0+ / 0-)

        I think the theory behind Romney (was)/is that he could perform in some blue states and bank on red discontent with the president, letting people who want to fire Obama feel like they aren't turning the country over to someone completely crazy.

        This hasn't worked because Romney has had to go so far to the right to win this nomination, it's unlikely he'll be able to recover, but this initial strategy (the only one likely to win against a sitting president that isn't scandalized) put him in trouble with the purity trolls on the right.

        I believe that the GOP completely misread the 2010 elections. Instead of "we want to change course to the right" it was "we want to fire the people in charge who aren't fixing the economy." People were freaking out in 2010 (and still are) about the economy, but there wasn't even any end in sight then. It's natural, especially in a two party system, for firing the incumbents to occur.

        In Canada and the UK around the same time, the incumbent or former incumbent party was fired but mostly due to voters moving to a different center-left or left party.

        We don't really have that choice here as much as we'd wish to, so, that I think is what happened in 2010.

        And if they think this crazy culture war shit is going to help, they are even more sorely mistaken than I thought. I think Pelosi's gavel is in sight.

        GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

        by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:10:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It has everything to do with (0+ / 0-)

        Mitt Romney being a Mormon. The evangelicals and protestant churches consider Mormonism to be blasphemy.

        Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Republicans picked up a large kick in their GOTV via the Christian Right. That morphed itself into the very driver of their GOTV over the past two decades.

        If Romney somehow comes out of this as the nominee the Republicans will lose the GOTV strength they have from the fundies and they also won't get anywhere near enough votes from those fundies for the Presidential race because the vast majority of those fundies will not, under any circumstance, hold their nose and vote for Romney. They won't support or endorse what they consider blasphemy and they put that religious test above all others even when it comes to electing politicians.

        This is the reason why Romney isn't getting anywhere fast in the primaries and why the "not Romney" vote is so strong. Clearly there are Republicans that don't think he is conservative enough and such but the truth is that religion has everything to do with this and this is why they come out and support Catholics like Santorum and Gingrich as they see Catholicism as the lesser of two evils compared with Mormonism.

        No amount of money being thrown around by the moneyed faction of the Republican party has been able to change that. And it seems to me that it will be a situation just like in 2008 where the moneyed Republicans had to cut a deal to clear the way for McCain. Except this time I think the fundies are holding out for the top of the ticket rather than the VP slot and, no doubt, promising a floor fight and disarray coming out of the convention if this doesn't go their way.  

        This is why there is a big advantage to President Obama if Mitt Romney is the nominee. The Republicans will lose a decent amount of their GOTV right out of the box. On the other hand anybody other than Romney coming out of the convention will have the full force GOTV that the Republicans bring to the fight. This I see as the only danger in the way of President Obama being re-elected. Events can occur outside of the campaigns that could boost GOP chances with the not-Romney nominee. I don't see enough 2008 President Obama voters switching to Romney to make up for the loss of the fundies - even if some event outside of the campaign impacts the President.

        Anything that keeps Republicans away from the ballot box on election day or at least away from the Presidential vote is the best situation for President Obama. If Romney gets the nomination I expect that the Libertarian and Constitution parties will see their highest totals in decades, if not ever.

    •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, I think it does.

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:05:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Indiana (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Attorney at Arms

    Do you know if the Indiana poll you used to do your math factored out Santorum, who I don't think is on the ballot?  Or did he win the right back to be on the ballot in Indiana?

    "What if you're on a game show one day and the name of some random New Jersey state senator is the only thing between you and several thousand dollars? And you'll think to yourself, "if only I had clapped faster." - sapelcovits

    by rdw72777 on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 06:54:21 AM PST

    •  No. (0+ / 0-)

      I neex to fix that. Thank you for pointing that out.

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 08:19:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  P.S. (0+ / 0-)

      Many of Indiana's delegates are unbound.  I'm going to think about how to approach this before I update. It could be that they will be mostly Romney with a few Paul delegates, or it could be that those unbound delegates organize for Santorum somehow, depending on the rules.

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 08:21:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think your last 2 lines sum it up (0+ / 0-)

        We lay people will have no idea who wins this thing until the backroom Illuminati for the GOP tell us.  Bound/unbound, 1 ballot/2ballot/3ballot, thresholds, etc.

        Might as well just put names in a hat and pick one.

        "What if you're on a game show one day and the name of some random New Jersey state senator is the only thing between you and several thousand dollars? And you'll think to yourself, "if only I had clapped faster." - sapelcovits

        by rdw72777 on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 08:57:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Massachusetts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Attorney at Arms

    With the poll below from Suffolk showing Mitt with 64%, Santorum at 16% and the others below 10%, I'm curious if some special rule applied for Massachusetts not set forth in your listed rules.

    For Mitt to only get 16 seems low, since he's likely to win all 3 delegates in numerous CD's and will likely take at least 7 of the AL delegates.  It's hard fro me to see how he ends up with less than 30 of the 41 to be honest.  I'd think 25 is his floor and that's if Santorum hits 15% in each CD, which with polling statewide at 16% seems unlikely.

    "What if you're on a game show one day and the name of some random New Jersey state senator is the only thing between you and several thousand dollars? And you'll think to yourself, "if only I had clapped faster." - sapelcovits

    by rdw72777 on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 07:14:57 AM PST

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