Former Pennsylvania Senator and GOP hopeful Rick Santorum on Monday said the chance of the Republican nomination being decided at the party's convention in Tampa is "increasing." But besides Santorum, who else would benefit from a brokered convention? One thing is for sure – it would not be Mitt Romney.
The obvious goal of the Romney camp is to seal the GOP contest as soon as possible. Analysts are seeing Romney's campaign reduce campaign staff and implement other cost saving methods in order to prepare for a longer campaign – a strategy they were not counting on last fall.
A Republican candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination. As it stands today, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney is leading with 516 delegates. Santorum, who is in second place, has 236, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has 141 and Texas Congressman Ron Paul trails the four-pack with 66.
When evaluating comparative delegate counts from the same time period in the 2008 Republican primary, Arizona Sen. John McCain had 609 delegates, to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 199 delegates. Romney was a close third with 194 delegates.
McCain went on to win the 2008 GOP nomination with 1,563 delegates. Huckabee had 282 and Romney was third with 272 delegates. Paul had 29 delegates.
And similar to 2008, the delegate rich states of Illinois, New York, Texas and California have a lot to say about how quickly or if Romney can get to the magic number of 1,144 before the convention in August.
Gingrich and Paul are far behind in delegate counts and hardly anyone outside of their camps believes they have any chance at all to win the nomination outright or even in a brokered convention. Nonetheless, both would relish in any type of role they would play in such a scenario.
In his appearances on Monday morning talk shows, Santorum once again said he was well positioned to keep Romney from securing enough delegates, leading to a situation that he says could play to his advantage at the GOP convention.
"If the other people stay in the race, it's going to be hard for anyone to get to that magic number," said Santorum in a CBS "This Morning" interview. "We believe we get to the convention, the convention will nominate a conservative. The convention will not nominate an establishment moderate from Massachusetts."
Polls for Tuesday's primaries in Illinois and Saturday's contest in Louisiana do little to bring clarity to the picture. Romney is favored by nine percentage points in Illinois and in the Cajun State but Santorum holds a slight four-point lead with both Romney and Gingrich close behind.
Santorum realizes he needs to do well in Illinois since Gingrich and Paul have by-passed the state. However, the Santorum campaign failed to get a full slate of delegates on the ballot so Romney will most likely benefit from Santorum's weakness in this area.
"This is a tough state; we're being outspent about 10 to 1," Santorum said in the CBS interview.
Although Santorum has performed well in other Midwestern states, Illinois could prove to be difficult in a state that tends to favor more moderate candidates such as Romney.
"If we can win Illinois, I guarantee you – I guarantee you we will win this nomination," Santorum said at a rally in Illinois over the weekend.
McCain, who has publicly endorsed Romney, said a decisive victory in Illinois could seal the deal for the former Massachusetts governor and that Illinois plays such a defining role in this year's primary.
"I think it's appropriate that Illinois be one of the deciding states; it's here. It's a large state, a diverse state, it's got a heartland of America's, and I hope a lot of people turn out tomorrow," McCain said on Monday's Fox News.
As to the possibility of a brokered convention, GOP insiders still see it as a remote possibility.
"I don't think it's going to happen, it's never happened," said McCain on MSNBC.