There’s been lots of talk about the changing winds of the Republican primaries, but let’s take a careful look at the numbers from all of the contests that have been held so far and see where that leaves the final four contenders.
1) Total votes – Romney wins in this category. He is the only candidate who has accumulated over a million votes. He has received 1.4 times as many votes as the second place finisher in this category.
Romney = 1,183,979
Gingrich = 837,611
Santorum = 569,488
Paul = 337,894
Note: if you want to review the state-by-state results, 2012 Election Central has a convenient summary page.
2) Average percentage of the vote – Romney wins in this category. Taking the percentage of votes he earned in the nine contests that have been held so far and averaging that number, Romney has averaged 34% of the vote. This is 1.3 times better than the second place finisher in this category.
Romney = 34%
Santorum = 26%
Paul = 19%
Gingrich = 18%
Note: I boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had counted his 0% Missouri finish, that would have dropped his average to 16%.
3) Average Place (i.e., first, second, third, …) – Romney wins in this category with an average place of 1.7, putting him comfortably ahead of the second place finisher in this category, who scored an average place of 2.4. The breakdown of this tally is telling: Romney had only one finish that was not a 1st or 2nd place finish, while Santorum had 5 finishes that were 3rd place or lower, Gingrich also had 5 that were 3rd place or lower, and Paul had 6.
Romney = 1.7
Santorum = 2.4
Paul = 3
Gingrich = 3
Note: I again boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had assigned Gingrich a 4th place finish in Missouri, that would have dropped his score to 3.1.
4) Delegate count – Romney wins in this category also. You would have to combine every delegate from all three remaining contenders to tie with Romney’s total.
Romney = 123
Santorum = 72
Gingrich = 32
Paul = 19
My conclusion is that Romney can still safely be considered the Republican front-runner.
- Gingrich has done well in two high-population states (South Carolina and Florida).
- Santorum has done well in four states that involved relatively low numbers of voters (the most votes he received from a state that he won was 138,957 in Missouri) and relatively high percentages of Evangelical voters (all his victories came from states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population). He has placed 3rd, 4th, or 5th in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population. That may not bode well for Santorum in the evangelical-poor but delegate-rich states of California, New York, Illinois, and possibly even Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania (the latest poll in Pennsylvania shows Santorum and Romney in a statistical deadheat). See the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life for religious composition summaries by state.
- Romney is the only candidate who has consistently scored 1st or 2nd place finishes almost entirely across the board. He has won all three contests in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population, but he has also placed 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 6 states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population.
With the most total votes, the highest average percentage of the votes cast, the best average place in the first 9 contests, and the highest delegate count, Romney is clearly the best-positioned to do well in the long haul.