Santorum’s Grim Delegate Math

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Rick Santorum’s campaign held an hour-long conference call with reporters on Tuesday with two purposes: 1) to say that it’s not fair that all anyone is talking about is Mitt Romney’s delegate lead, and 2) explain their memo claiming that Mitt Romney’s delegate lead isn’t as big as everyone else says it is.

If those conflicting messages leave you puzzled, don’t worry —  the race really isn’t any closer than people believe. The quantifiable part of the argument Santorum’s people are making is that some of the winner-take-all contests–big prizes in Florida and Arizona–should have awarded delegates proportionally, giving Santorum some share of the delegates that have all gone to Romney. Which is all very interesting until you ask party officials. “Proportionality is only required for those states that go between March 6 and the end of March. People that went before March 1 can do winner-take-all,” Jim Bopp, a RNC rules committee member, told National Review. Florida was punished for moving its primary up to Jan. 31, but the winner-take-all thing is going to slide. Sorry Santo.

So why talk about it? Despite the holier than thou stuff  — on a conference call devoted to delegate math communications director Hogan Gidley actually said “We’re the only campaign not talking about delegate math” — Santorum needs the math to work his way. As we wrote Monday, if the math can’t deny Romney the nomination, Santorum has no hope. This is an argument he has to make. It’s unfortunate, too, because all this delegate talk is boring, and boring helps Mitt Romney.

“It’s pretty sad when all you have is to do math instead of trying to go out there and win it on substance and win it on what Americans want to hear about,” Santorum told CNN last week. “We’re a long long way from over. And you know what? I suspect if we keep winning state after state after state, [Romney] isn’t going to be the nominee.” But Santorum isn’t winning “state after state” at this point. Illinois is looking grim; he should win Louisiana, but then it’ll be a long few weeks until his home state of Pennsylvania votes on a night when Romney could sweep the rest of the east coast. All Santorum has is the math.  And yeah, he was right. Tuesday’s phone call was a little sad.