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McCormack: Delegate Math

6:59 AM, Dec 11, 2007 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Over at NRO, David Freddoso explores the possibility that none of the Republican presidential candidates will lock up a majority of delegates needed for the nomination, thus dragging the race out until the convention in September:

For a clean nominating process, one candidate must enter next year's convention in Minneapolis with half the delegates - that is 1,191 delegates, or 1,259 if sanctions against several states are lifted. This was easy in 2000, when there were only two viable candidates. It was relatively easy in 1996, when there was a clear establishment favorite. Moreover, Bob Dole's decisive seven-state sweep on Super Tuesday effectively gave him control of the late contests, where many delegates were still at stake.

This time, however, there are too many candidates, and no establishment favorite. And after Super Tuesday, there will not be nearly as many delegates to be won. Therefore, a clean process and a convention full of merely symbolic speeches is far from guaranteed. Giuliani is still the man to beat, but his odds would be long in a brokered Republican convention. The burden rests on Rudy to prevent one - to get as close to 50 percent of the delegates as possible. And the very difficulty of this task gives other candidates an incentive to stick around and fight in late contests, further complicating everything.

Freddoso then runs through a favorable primary scenario for Giuliani and does enough delegate math to make your head hurt. But if you pop a couple Advil and follow Freddoso's "guess-estimating" computations, it seems very plausible that Giuliani will not be able to win a majority of delegates unless he exceeds his own high expectations for Super Tuesday. Of course, Freddoso concedes that if any other candidates drop out before Super Tuesday, his calculations will be scrambled, though not necessarily in Giuliani's favor. It is a rough estimate after all.

One point about which Freddoso needn't express ambiguity, however, is whether or not the RNC will lift its sanctions docking 50 percent of the delegates from states that moved their primaries to dates earlier than allowed by RNC rules. According to an RNC official, the final call to penalize those states was made in November and will not be reconsidered.

That means that on January 8, New Hampshire will be awarding 12 delegates - only 3 more than Guam will select on February 16.

It also means Giuliani will be competing on January 29 for 57 delegates in Florida - not 114. That fact makes it highly unlikely that, absent earlier wins, Giuliani will emerge from Florida with a delegate lead heading into Super Tuesday.