I have no idea where he has the time on his hands to do it, but Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight blog has done a very thorough job today analyzing how daunting Rick Santorum's task is to overcome Mitt Romney's lead in delegates. He sees the best case scenario for Santorum being to reach the convention in Tampa Bay with more delegates than Romney but still well short of the 1144 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.
Silver first assumes that Gingrich will drop out after the votes in Alabama and Mississippi, turning the race into essentially a two contender race. ( I really do enjoy hearing the refreshing candor from Ron Paul.) This is an acceptable assumption given that Gingrich's campaign spokesman said dropping out was likely if he fails to carry both these states next week. The latest polls in both states show Romney slightly ahead or even.
Silver then projects the popular vote in each of the remaining states still to hold primaries and caucuses based on three factors:
a. a regression analysis of the demographics of the GOP voters, conservative v. moderate, in each state, coupled with fund-raising results by each candidate in the state;For example, his baseline has Wisconsin going to Santorum with its winner-take-all 42 delegates, as Romney has polled poorly here, has made no effort to raise money in Wisconsin, and was crushed in neighboring Minnesota two weeks ago.
b. current polling in the state, to the extent it exists; and,
c. how neighboring states have already voted, particularly if the voter demographics seem close to the state he is analyzing.
Under the baseline analysis, Silver has Romney averaging about 5% more votes than Santorum, on average, over the remaining contests.
From this admittedly somewhat subjective analysis, Silver constructs a baseline condition for the popular vote that he then projects into delegates won in the state by analyzing the delegate assignment rules for each state: winner-take-all, proportional, proportional unless the winner gets 50% or more, in which case it becomes winner-take-all.
Silver's baseline analysis has Romney prevailing with 1162 delegates, 18 more than needed, and Santorum stuck well back at 686 delegates.
He then does an analysis with the assumption that Santorum does 5% better and Romney 5% worse in the popular vote than in the baseline analysis, and finds that Santorum still falls well short of Romney in delegates, 1031 to 834.
His only scenario for Santorum to have a chance for the nomination is outperforming the baseline by 10%. Here is how the electoral map would look, followed by a chart of the delegates won. California and Illinois seem like a stretch for Santorum to win.
Obviously, 974 isn't the requisite 1144 delegates, so for Santorum to be given the nod, he would have to win at a brokered convention.