Algebra II

March 14th, 2012

Here’s a follow-up to Harsh Math, in which I demonstrated that delegate math is not necessarily in Romney’s favor.


“Between Rick Santorum and myself, we will get over two-thirds of the delegates and the so-called front runner will get less than one-third.” – Newt Gingrich last night


Dear Mitt:


The delegate math is now even less in your favor.

What do you think now about “cheesey grits’” flavor?


In Harsh Math, I discussed the mathematical impact of a Santorum-Gingrich alliance at a possible brokered convention, which after Mississippi and Alabama is now even more likely.

Rick Santorum won both of those states, trailed by Newt, with Mitt in third place. For a while, it looked like Mitt might win Mississippi, but that didn’t happen. That makes him even more of a wounded front-runner.

The other thing that could have happened as a result of last night is that Newt might have dropped out, having lost to Santorum in both Mississippi and Alabama in spite of Newt’s “Southern strategy.” But that didn’t happen either.

The conventional wisdom is that Newt’s continued participation hurts Rick Santorum and helps Romney, since it denies Santorum the one-on-one match-up that would allow Santorum to consolidate the non-Romney vote. But there’s one possible twist (again, a mathematical one) to that conventional wisdom story.

While it’s true that Newt’s departure would definitely allow Santorum’s personal share of the primary vote and primary delegate totals to increase, it’s also true that not all of Gingrich’s voters would migrate to Santorum. Newt’s billionaire campaign financier Sheldon Adelson is one such example: he reportedly dislikes Santorum and has said he’ll support Romney if Newt drops out.

If delegate totals for the remaining states exactly matched the primary vote breakdown, then Newt’s departure from the race would by definition result in fewer non-Romney votes at the convention, since Romney would pick up some portion of Gingrich’s erstwhile voters and delegates, even if only a very small one. But the intricacy of delegate math complicates the analysis: some of the remaining states are winner-take-all, and other states have formulas that cause delegate distribution to diverge from the popular vote. So, the questions then becomes: (1) does the former factor outweigh the latter, or vice versa, and (2) would the delegates that Romney might pick up if Gingrich dropped out be enough to put Romney over the 1144 delegate threshold necessary to avoid a brokered convention, or to win one with a Romney-Ron Paul deal that gave Romney Ron Paul’s delegates.

Of course, this analysis begs the $64,000,000 question: what happens with the non-Romney delegates at a brokered convention? If Santorum and Gingrich pool their delegates as I described in Harsh Math, either by prior agreement or as a result of negotiations at the convention, then Santorum (assuming he’s still the non-Romney front-runner and beneficiary of that alliance) may actually end up benefiting from Gingrich’s staying in the race. Of course, the price for Newt’s delegates will at that point be much higher.

Another point that flows from last night’s results: if over the next few days there isn’t GOP Establishment pressure on Newt to drop out, that’s evidence that the Establishment wants to keep its options open to introduce a surprise White Knight in the increasingly likely event of a brokered convention (read Mr. Surprise for more about that).


Update: I didn’t occur to me that today’s Pi Day until after I wrote this, but that makes math-related political analysis all the more appropriate.


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