Make no mistake, Rick Santorum’s solid performances yesterday in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri can only be seen as good news for his campaign and supporters. But, mathematically speaking, how much of an impact will his wins have on the race going forward?
First off, the two states where convention delegates were actually at stake — Minnesota and Colorado — do not feature winner-take-all rules, like Florida. And Minnesota, in fact, awards only 13 of its 40 total delegates to the winner of its caucuses at the time the polls close.
So, despite sweeping all three states, Santorum cut his net deficit against Romney by only 22 delegates, less than half the number Romney captured in Florida alone. As of today, Romney still enjoys a 107-45 lead over the rest of the field.
It would be wrong, however, to suggest that Santorum’s victories were meaningless.
His blowout win in Missouri could be significant, if for no other reason than the fact that when the state GOP holds its official caucus on March 17, the winner will take home all 52 delegates at stake. With a seed firmly planted in the minds of Missouri voters, Santorum should be considered a favorite to score some serious points next month. The only roadblock to a repeat performance could come in the form of millions of dollars in attack ads waged against him by the Romney machine.
Of course, after Tuesday’s triumphs, Santorum could very likely be on the verge of raking in some big bucks himself.
For Romney, though he lost yesterday’s “beauty contest” in Missouri, he should win this weekend’s unofficial contest in Maine. The state, which holds caucuses until March 3, will allow voters to participate in a straw poll on Saturday, the results of which will prompt news outlets to begin apportioning the state’s 24 delegates. Like Missouri, the actual delegate count in Maine won’t be known until next month.
Looking forward to the end of the month, 59 delegates will be up for grabs on February 28 when Arizona and Michigan hold their primaries. At the moment, polls show Romney with a commanding lead in Arizona, and a comfortable lead in Michigan.