My sincerest apologies to Randy Evans and his legions of fans for being lazy and not updating his column as regularly as I should.
Halftime for GOP Nomination
In 2011, the best team in baseball on paper was the Philadelphia
Phillies. Indeed, virtually every sports commentator expected the
Phillies to win their division, pennant, and the World Series. On the
other hand, no one gave the St. Louis Cardinals much of a chance. In
fact, with 31 games to go, the Cardinals were ten and a half games
behind the Atlanta Braves in their division. As painful as it was to
watch, the Braves collapsed and the Cardinals went on to win the
division, the pennant and the World Series. The Phillies were not even
in the World Series. As the old adage goes, that is why they play the
In the race for the GOP Presidential nomination, Louisiana’s primary marked “halftime.” Heading into Louisiana, states with delegates totaling 1,141 had decided – just short of the 1,144 needed for the nomination. With Louisiana, the process moves past the halfway mark with 34 states having decided, accounting for 1,187 delegates. Certainly, most insiders and television commentators consider former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to be the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination. Yet, he must still win the nomination with an entire half yet to be played.
The nomination process is so complicated and diluted that it is difficult for any candidate to actually put the race away. Instead, until mathematically eliminated, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Congressman Ron Paul – like the Cardinals last year – continue to compete for the GOP nomination. And so the process goes on toward the Republican National Convention in Tampa from August 27-30, 2012.
In a Presidential race that has had many unexpected twists and turns,
this is no small thing. The truth is that with 4 candidates remaining
this deep into the calendar, the GOP nomination moves into unchartered
Some big upcoming dates could determine whether Governor Romney can put
the race away, or whether the nomination goes into overtime. As a
result, the timing and sequence of the primaries in the second half is
After Louisiana on March 24th, there are three primaries on April 3rd –
with two that are winner-take-all. The winner gets all the delegates
and the rest of the candidates get nothing.
First, there is the primary in the District of Columbia. Having failed
to meet the legal requirements, Senator Santorum will not be on the
ballot. Instead, it will largely be a contest between just Speaker
Gingrich and Governor Romney.
Second, there is Wisconsin, which is also a winner-take-all state. This
is considered by most to be a ‘must win’ for Senator Santorum. It is
among the ‘blue collar’ states included in any strategy he has for
remaining viable through June.
Third, there is Maryland which is proportional. Most insiders consider
Governor Romney to be the favorite. But because of the rules, it will
be difficult for him to win a majority of the delegates.
These three contests – D.C., Wisconsin, and Maryland, set the stage forthe GOP nomination for almost an entire month because then the process really slows down.
Three weeks later, on April 24th, (more than four weeks after
Louisiana), five more states decide. No one knows what such a hiatus
can mean in the modern world of daily politics. Everyone agrees that,
besides needing Wisconsin, Senator Santorum almost certainly faces a
‘must win’ in Pennsylvania (whose delegates remain unbound regardless of
outcome). The other big contests on April 24 are Connecticut, Delaware,
Rhode Island and delegate rich New York (95).
Then, the process speeds back up. Two weeks later, on May 8th, more
southern primaries take place in North Carolina and West Virginia along
with Indiana followed by Nebraska and Oregon on May 15. Then, the fourth
quarter of the GOP nomination process begins with a delegate rich 3-week
dash that really could decide the nomination. The fourth quarter begins
with more southern primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky on May 22nd. They
lead into Texas (155 delegates) on May 29th.
After two weeks of southern primaries, the process then turns on June
5th to California (172 delegates), New Jersey (50), New Mexico and South
Dakota. California and New Jersey alone represent almost 20% of the
delegates needed for the nomination and are both winner-take-all
In total, the states in this final 3-week stretch have 509 delegates –
or almost half of what is needed for the nomination. The final primary
(Utah) is not for three weeks afterwards – on June 26.
If no candidate has the 1,144 delegates by June 26, the process moves
into overtime. This is when the candidates try to woo unbound delegates
to get them over the 1,144 threshold. If no candidate can do that, then
it really will be an open convention after all.
Mr. Evans is the chair of the Financial Institutions practice at the law firm of McKenna, Long, and Aldridge LLP. He also served as outside counsel to the Speakers of the 104th – 109th Congresses of the United States. His weekly column debuts every Friday on That’s Just Peachy.