Delegates won’t add up to GOP nomination until mid-May

March 8, 2012

By Gregory Korte and Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney‘s prize of 212 delegates out of the Super Tuesdayprimaries and caucuses still leaves him less than halfway to the 1,144 delegates he needs to lock up the GOP presidential nomination.

But the delegate math is even more daunting for his challengers.

Romney has won 56% of the delegates awarded so far, and needs to garner 47% of the remaining delegates to reach the magic number, according to a USA TODAY analysis of delegate counts provided by the Associated Press.

His challengers have a higher bar: Rick Santorum would need 63% of the remaining delegates. Newt Gingrichneeds 67%. And Ron Paul needs 71%.

With none of the candidates giving any indication of dropping out, Super Tuesday’s results may only prolong the nomination battle into June or beyond.

That’s because even if Romney runs the table of remaining contests — highly unlikely, given that proportional delegate allocation rules often give some of the delegates to second- or third-place finishers — it would be mid-May before Romney has even a mathematical chance of clinching the nomination.

But the math is one thing. Reality is another.

“You often have a tipping point that’s short of that,” said Rhodes Cook, a political analyst and editor of the Rhodes Cook letter. “If that guy gets up to a certain percentage, say two-thirds of the delegates, and they have a clear lead of a couple hundred delegates, he reaches a point where people perceive it as inevitable.” For Romney, he said that tipping point may be about 800 delegates.

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