The headline of my column last week was, “If Santorum Wins in Illinois, He Becomes the New Favorite to Win the Nomination.” Plain and simple, Rick Santorum didn’t win. Mitt Romney won a decisive double-digit victory in Illinois, and he remains the clear favorite to win the GOP Presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.
Yet I continue to believe that if Romney does not win the majority of delegates (1,144) on the first ballot, he will not be the nominee. The delegates are free to vote for whomever they choose after two ballots. Enthusiasm for Romney remains limited among conservatives, and I believe that on a subsequent ballot, Rick Santorum would win the nomination, as conservative delegates would close ranks around him.
Accordingly, the race remains for Santorum a struggle to prevent Romney for obtaining the magic number of 1,144 delegates before the convention. There is a pathway for Santorum to do this, but he will have no margin of error whatsoever.
The following are my predictions for the remaining primaries:
ROMNEY VICTORIES: April: District of Columbia, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island. May: Oregon. June: New Jersey, New Mexico, and Utah.
SANTORUM VICTORIES: March: Louisiana. April: Wisconsin (admittedly, an upset prediction) and Pennsylvania. May: Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas. June: Montana and South Dakota.
A footnote: If Romney wins either Pennsylvania or Texas, the ballgame is over, and he is guaranteed the nomination. Otherwise, April should be a good month for Romney and May a good month for Santorum – unless Rick loses either Pennsylvania or Texas.
If my predictions are accurate, the outcome of the California primary on June 5 will decide whether Romney will win enough delegates for a first ballot victory.
As I have discussed in a previous column, California‘s primary is a hybrid type of presidential primary. California has 53 Congressional districts, and each district elects three delegates. The presidential candidate prevailing in the district in question wins all three delegates, and the candidate prevailing statewide wins all ten at-large delegates.
Thus, it becomes a question not so much as to who wins the California state “GOP beauty contest” but rather the final delegate outcome. This is different from the former winner-take-all rules in California that won for Barry Goldwater the entire California delegation in his 1964 statewide victory over Nelson Rockefeller.
Demographics in California favor Mitt Romney: A large portion of the Califor
nia GOP electorate is college-educated, and the state has a Mormon population second in number only to Utah.
Political history in California bodes well for Rick Santorum: In California statewide GOP primaries, the more conservative candidate usually, but not always wins. The California GOP electorate continues to be largely conservative.
In any event, this ballgame is not over –at least not yet. Stay tuned.