While it’s clear that regional variations have played a role thus far in the Republican primaries — with Mitt Romney doing well in the Northeast but not in the South, for example — breaking down the contests along other lines might help shed some additional light on the race. It’s perhaps interesting to compare how Romney has done in each of five groupings of contests: the five states that have the largest percentage of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona); all other swing states (Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan, and New Mexico); all other GOP-leaning states; all other Democratic-leaning states; and non-states.
To date, here’s the average percentage of the popular vote than Romney has won in each of those five categories:
Non-states: 88 percent (based on tallies from Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands)
Top-5 LDS states: 51 percent
Democratic-leaning non-swing states: 47 percent
Swing states: 38 percent (including Virginia, where Ron Paul and Romney ran head-to-head)
Republican-leaning non-swing states: 27 percent
Romney is clearly having a great deal of success in blue states like Illinois (where he got the same 47 percent of the vote he’s averaged in blue states to date), in frontier states that are heavily Mormon, and in non-state island contests. He’s doing alright in swing states He’s not doing very well in red states. In red states, Rick Santorum is averaging 33 percent of the vote, and Santorum and Newt Gingrich have combined to average 59 percent of the vote — more than double Romney’s average tally of 27 percent.
Romney’s win-loss record tells a similar tale. He’s 5-0 in non-states, 4-0 in heavily Mormon states, 6-0 in blue states, 5-3 in swing states, and 1-8 in red states.
In all, Romney has won 40 percent of the popular vote and 55 percent of the delegates awarded in contests to date. To secure the 1,144 delegates required to win the nomination, he needs to win 46 percent of the delegates in the 24 contests still to come. So, how does the slate of states look for him going forward?
From here on out, a much higher percentage of the available delegates will come from Democratic-leaning states than was true during the first half of the GOP race. That certainly favors Romney. However, a higher percentage of the delegates will also come from Republican-leaning states, which doesn’t favor him. (Fewer delegates from here on out will come from swing states.) Moreover, there are no more non-state islands still to come and only one more state that’s among the top-5 in highest share of LDS population (Utah).
If we give Romney the same percentage of the vote in each upcoming contest that he’s averaged in that category of contest to date (for example, if we give him the same 47 percent of the vote in Maryland that he’s averaged in Democratic-leaning states to date), his average share of the popular vote in upcoming contests would be 37 percent — a bit below the tally he’s won to date.
To be sure, this projection is not intended to provide a dead-on forecast of future events. Still, all other things being equal, Romney’s path to acquiring delegates likely won’t get much easier, and could well get a bit harder, from this point forward. If he can’t improve upon his 11 percent winning percentage in red states, this race will likely go until June — and perhaps all the way until the GOP convention in August.