2012 Delegate Rules Not Hurting Or Helping Candidates

Mar 23, 2012 4:18pm

With all this talk of delegate strategies, one theme that has popped up is a comparison of this cycle’s rules to 2008′s delegate rules.

The delegate rules in this cycle are completely new for the RNC. The committee drafted a new set of by-laws in 2010, and a major part of those by-laws is a rule decreeing that no state could hold a winner take-all contest before April 1.  (Two states- Florida and Arizona- violated that rule and lost half of their delegates as a punishment.)

In 2008 however, a lot of the Republican contests were in fact winner take-all. So with all of the delegate talk, we wondered–would the primary battle be in a very different place right now if all of these contests were allowed to be winner take-all?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. In a scenario where all of the contests which have already taken place award all of their delegates to the winner, Romney would actually have a smaller lead on Santorum than he currently does, though the numbers are not vastly different.

In this scenario, assuming each state maintained the same number of delegates, Romney would have 586 projected delegates- not much more than the 563 delegates ABC News currently projects.

Santorum would have 348 delegates- a sizable amount more than the 263 he’s currently amassed, by ABC News projections.

The reason why this scheme would likely end up benefiting Santorum a bit more than Romney is likely in large part a result of Romney’s ability to place in second or a very close third place in the vast majority of contests. Even in states where Romney lost, he still usually managed to pick up at least a couple of delegates along the way. This has not always been the case for Santorum, who has placed a distant second or third in several contests.

The scenario wouldn’t make much different for Newt Gingrich either. By ABC News calculations Gingrich currently has 135 delegates. In a winner take-all scenario he would have 101.

Ron Paul would have zero projected delegates so far.

It’s possible that a winner take-all dynamic would change the momentum factor in the race. It’s logical that if a candidate wins a couple of winner take-all contests in a row, they would appear to be in a stronger lead than if they share the crop of delegates from their victory. However, given how this race has played out, with Santorum and Romney trading victories on and off, it seems likely that the old rules, wouldn’t really make much of a difference.

 

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