How Much Can a Louisiana Win Do For Santorum? Ehhhh...

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 22 2012 1:38 PM

How Much Can a Louisiana Win Do For Santorum? Ehhhh...

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GETTYSBURG, PA - MARCH 20: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum gestures while addressing supporters during an Illinois primary night event at the Gettysburg Hotel on March 20, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Santorum lost the Illinois primary to Mitt Romney, and plans to travel the next several days in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Two new polls out of Louisiana point to a relatively easy Rick Santorum win. Magellan Strategies has Santorum at 37 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent and Newt Gingrich at 21. Rasmussen Reports -- which didn't exactly nail Alabama/Mississippi -- puts it at Santorum 43, Romney 31, Gingrich 16. If this holds up, Santorum wins his fourth Southern state.

I have to bring the bad news: The win might not net many delegates. Louisiana has 46 of them, but only 20 of them are assigned according to Saturday's vote. They're awarded "proportionally to those Presidential candidates receiving 25% or more of the statewide primary vote." The other delegates are awarded at a June convention, and those Star Chamber illuminati don't have to pay any attention to the primary vote or even the district-by-district vote.

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So, let's say Santorum dominates the primary but Mitt Romney falls where the polls say he'll fall -- Santorum 43, Romney 28, Gingrich 20, Paul 9. Santorum wins by a bigger margin than Romney won in Illinois! But two candidates crossed the 25 percent line; the delegates have to be divvied up. Santorum would win 9 delegates, rounding up; Romney would win 6. The other 5 delegates would be uncommitted. Santorum would net 3 delegates, which hardly cancels out the 31 delegates that Romney netted in Illinois.*

Santorum needs a big cluster at the bottom of the heap -- less than 25 percent of the vote for any of his rivals. Failing that, he doesn't take much out of Louisiana. This is exactly how Mitt Romney's been surviving, despite being the first Republican frontrunner in the modern era with no great strength in the South.

*I originally misstated how the delegates would be handed out. Fixed now.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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