The Santorum Delegate Talk Makes Perfect Sense

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 29 2012 2:34 PM

The Santorum Delegate Talk Makes Perfect Sense

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Last night, as the votes were being tallied in Michigan, Santorum strategist John Brabender sat down to dish out spin. A giant TV screen, playing Fox News commentators, was informing everyone that Mitt Romney had won Michigan. Pay no attention, said Brabender. The media had already botched the coverage once, claiming that Mitt Romney won Iowa when he didn't. (The ensuing Time magazine cover is the "Dewey Defeats Truman" of 2012.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"Everybody is taking down lights now, and we don't know how much we won!" said Brabender. "The last count I saw had us winning five districts, at least. Everybody's missing the story. You're looking at the horse race, and we're looking at delegates." For all intents and purposes, Michigan was a Santorum win. "I assure you that, a couple of months ago, there was a strategy meeting at Romney's headquarters, and they had a big map out, and they said, Well, the good news is we don't have to go to Michigan and spend money there. They had to spend millions to eke out a win, and they might not win on delegates."

Advertisement

This sounded like loser talk. Brabender struggled to stay on message as reporters asked multiple questions about the new Romney "narrative" of victory, and about the (eventually) overhyped "Operation Hilarity" project to scrounge up Democratic votes for Santorum. But the final results in Michigan make it look like Brabender was right.

What does it mean for Santorum? Check the delegate rules for the next states.

Washington: Yet another non-binding caucus, but one that kicks off the delegate selection process. And it votes Saturday.

Alaska: A caucus with proportional delegate selection.

Georgia: A primary with 31 delegates divided proportionately according to the statewide vote, and 42 more divided proportionately by district.

Idaho: A caucus with proportional delegate selection; win more than 50 percent in a district, you win all the delegates.

Massachusetts: A primary with proportional delegate selection. Hit 15 percent and you start getting delegates.

North Dakota: A semi-binding caucus; delegates will be assigned at a state convention in proportion to the candidate preferences expressed in the caucuses.

Ohio: A primary with 15 delegates for the statewide winner and 48 delegates split between congressional districts -- win a district, win 3 delegates.

Oklahoma: A primary with 25 delegates divided up statewide and 15 divided up by congressional district. As in Idaho, if win more than 50 percent in a district, you win the delegates.

Tennesssee: A primary with extremely proportional delegate selection. Any candidate who hits 20 percent statewide gets a delegate. Same goes district-by-district.

Vermont: A primary with 3 delegates for whoever wins statewide and 14 more split between candidates, unless one candidate gets an overall majority.

Virginia: The infamous, Romney-Paul-and-nobody-else primary is winner-take-all by state and congressional district.

You know, I might have saved everyone a lot of time by just pointing this out: There is no winner-take-all primary in this coming week. In every state except Virginia, Santorum has a shot at taking delegates. In Georgia and Tennessee, those reboubts of Gingrichism, Romney and Santorum can win districts and neutralize the speaker's delegate advantage. The most likely outcome of Super Tuesday is not a Romney win. It's a mess.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.