Romney’s victories and even his losses have come at a great price. His narrow win in his home state of Michigan was at a total cost of six times what was spent in the state for Santorum. Romney’s reliance on large donors, many of whom have now given the maximum, will make it harder for him to fund future state contests at such levels as the race drags on.
Given that the primary calendar was frontloaded to give Romney an advantage in the earlier races, Romney has now plucked most of the low-hanging fruit. After a first quarter devoted to expensive scorched earth negative TV campaigns, Romney and his Super PAC are left with $17.8 million as of February 29, a sharp decline from the $24 million they had at the end of January and the $43.5 million war chest they had at the end of 2011.
It will be increasingly difficult for him to outspend Santorum 6, or 7 or 10 to 1 to get to the 46 percent or more of the delegates he needs in every state now that the contests are moving into states more favorable to Santorum.
http://images.politico.com/global/2012/03/santorum_path_to_victory_memo.html (page 2)
According to one reasonable model for delegate allocation, what this means is that as Romney puts his strongest states in the rearview mirror, a relatively small increase in votes for Santorum going forward, and a similar reduction for Romney, would cause Romney to come up short of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Convention on the first ballot. And if Romney doesn't win on the first ballot, he's in trouble.
There are a number of other factors affecting the final pre-Convention total that are not readily apparent from the current unreliable delegate counts; first and foremost is what does Newt Gingrich do?
Whether Newt stays in the race or suspends his campaign, he sends to the convention a group of delegates sure to vote against Mitt Romney on the first ballot. Given grassroots conservative distaste for Mitt Romney, for him to obtain the nomination he would most likely need a majority of votes on the first ballot. Should no candidate gain the necessary 1,144 delegates by the time the roll is called at the convention, Santorum is in a much stronger position to win the nomination because grassroots conservatives will likely back a more conservative candidate on subsequent ballots.
Given the antipathy that Gingrich has toward Romney, after Romney’s campaign of personal destruction against the former Speaker, it is not hard to imagine a pre-roll call deal that would send Newt’s delegates to Rick Santorum.
Romney’s continued desperate spending in state after state suggests that he does not believe the race is over. While the Romney campaign and many establishment Republican insiders are making the argument that Romney has the nomination wrapped-up, the media and the public are just starting to understand that the delegate counts that they have been given are inconsistent and inaccurate.
There is a reason for the Romney campaign’s transparent attempts inflate their delegate count.
As Morton Blackwell pointed out in his Red State post, “Ultimately, the national convention itself has plenary power to enforce the rules, and the convention majority decides how to enforce them. If no candidate has a clear majority of the uncontested delegate votes, enforcement of the rules could become the decisive issue of the convention.”
Despite his win in Illinois, Mitt Romney is a long way from the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination on the first ballot. If the plain meaning of the RNC Rules stands, and Romney can't outspend Santorum 6, or 7 or 10 to 1 in every state, Mitt’s math is getting tougher by the day. If the delegates are assigned according to the Rules, when the roll is called in Tampa there is no reason to believe that with united conservative support behind him, Rick Santorum can’t win the Republican nomination for President once the delegates are free to vote their conscience.
Tim Lafever is an attorney and conservative activist from California.