FHQ has been saying since our Very Rough Estimate of the delegate counts a couple of weeks ago that Romney is the only candidate who has a chance to get there. But, of course, I have not yet shown my work. No, it isn't mathematically impossible, but it would take either Gingrich or Santorum over-performing their established level of support in the contests already in the history books to such an extent that it is all but mathematically impossible. Santorum, for instance, has averaged 24.2% of the vote in all the contests. Since (and including) his February 7 sweep, he is averaging 34.7% of the vote. That is an improvement, but it is not nearly enough to get the former Pennsylvania senator within range of the 1144 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination....The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today's contests that it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch him and get to 1144. The latter seems particularly far-fetched given the above scenarios. And that is a problem in this race. Well, a problem for Gingrich and Santorum anyway. If all either of them can take to voters is an argument that all they can do is prevent Romney from getting to 1144, then neither has a winning strategy. That sort of strategy has a half life; one that will grow less effective as, in this case, Romney approaches 1144. Complicating this scenario even further for Gingrich and Santorum is the fact that if neither can get to 1144 or even close to it, neither is all that likely to be the candidate to emerge as the nominee at any -- unlikely though it may be -- contested convention.At The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney agrees:
Mitt Romney may be incapable of delivering a knockout punch, but as long as he stays on his feet, he's nearly guaranteed to win on points.
Republican nomination battles used to be punch-out affairs -- win enough early primaries, and your opponent would be forced to quit because he couldn't raise enough money. But in the era of super-PACs, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum can stay in the race as long as their billionaire patrons, Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, keep writing checks. Ron Paul, meanwhile, has an army of idealistic supporters who pony up $50 each week that he keeps campaigning....Counting delegates this early is an imprecise art. Some delegates are not bound, and the early caucuses did not actually allocate delegates to the national convention -- that will occur in state conventions this spring or summer. The Associated Press' estimate puts Romney currently at 415 delegates, to Santorum's 176, with Gingrich and Paul controlling 105 and 47, respectively. A candidate needs a majority of all delegates in order to win the nomination, which this year comes to 1,144.
Two of the remaining winner-take-all states will be uncontested, Utah and Pennsylvania. Romney is all but guaranteed to win Utah's 40 delegates on June 26, and so if Santorum win his home state's 72 delegates on April 24, his net gain is 32 -- leaving him about 200 behind Romney, with about 1430 remaining. The remaining states are scattered geographically and demographically, distributed evenly between Romney's base (the Northeast), Santorum's (the heartland), as well as the Romney-leaning West and the Gingrich-Santorum South.
If Romney were to stumble and win only a third of the delegates in the remaining states, Santorum would have to win more than half of all the delegates in order to pull ahead, meaning that Gingrich and Paul together would have to be held below 16 percent. To date, not even counting Romney's blowout in Massachusetts, Romney has won nearly half of the delegates while Santorum has won about one-fourth. That means the only path to Romney losing requires Santorum to double his past haul, while Romney drops by about 70 percent. That's not likely.