At The Weekly Standard
, Jay Cost explains the impact of the 2012 GOP nomination calendar
Right now, we are in the tenth week of the GOP primary battle, and about half of the delegates have been allocated. But check out the lines in 2008 and 2012, at this point in those cycles roughly 80 percent of the delegates had been allocated!
What does this mean in terms of Romney’s political strength? Put simply: it blunts it. This slow allocation of delegates gives poorly funded candidates time to stake out ground in smaller states, pick up a surprising win or two, gain momentum, and challenge the frontrunner.
He also compares Romney and McCain:
There have been to date 17 contests in the 2012 GOP battle that occurred on or before Super Tuesday in 2008. This gives us 17 apples-to-apples comparison of how Romney is doing this time compared to McCain last time.
So what we see is that Romney actually has done better than McCain in 60 percent of the common battles so far. What’s more, Romney won 43.4 percent of the delegates in these contests, compared to 39.5 percent for McCain. And if we take the average vote haul in these states (weighted by number of delegates), Romney has won 35.0 percent of the vote compared to 29.3 percent for McCain.
In other words, Romney ’12 is running a pretty solid 4-to-6 percent ahead of McCain ‘08. Again, not the sign of a particularly dominant front-runner, but also not the sign of a uniquely weak one, either.
Though this article doesn't mention it, another change has enabled Gingrich and Santorum to stay in the race: super PAC spending. Four years ago, their candidacies would have withered for lack of money
. This time, Romney is outspending them by a large margin, but the super PACs are providing them with enough airtime to remain viable.