Some primary, huh?

Check various news websites and you will probably find different delegate counts for the Republican primary.  The discrepancy is not surprising – even the Party itself can’t tell you the delegate count at this point.  The reason is that the GOP consists of thousands of state, county and district groups, most of whom have their own rules.  The only thing we do know is that the final choice to represent the Republican Party for president in 2012 will be selected by the delegates at Republican National Convention at the end of August.

Here is how it works, for instance, in Georgia

Georgia will send 76 delegates to the National Convention.  The Republican Party in each of the 14 Congressional districts in Georgia will have their own local conventions and select three delegates each to send the national convention.  The State will then select 34 more delegates at its convention in May.  These delegates are very carefully chosen and will consist of Republican Party loyals who have been heavily involved with the party for years.  Competition is fierce even though participation in the National Convention will probably cost each delegate personally between $3,000 and $5,000.

The delegates selected to represent Georgia will be assigned (or ‘bound’) to candidates proportionally based on the results of the primary when they get a chance to vote at the National Convention.  This means that most of the delegates will be voting for Newt in the first round.  I don’t know all the state laws, but I know in Georgia that unless released by the candidate (or the candidate drops out) the delegates are required by law to vote for their assigned candidate.  To fail to do so could even result in criminal charges.  While the delegates are required to vote for a specific candidate during the first round of voting, many states will ‘release’ their delegates after the first or second round.

If things go smoothly one of the existing candidates will receive at least 1,144 votes and become the Republican nominee.  If no candidate gets enough votes to win outright, votes continue to be taken until one candidate gets the majority.  Georgia’s delegates will be required to vote for their assigned candidate through the first two rounds unless they are released by their candidate or their candidate receives less than 35% of the votes on the prior vote.  Once released, the delegates can vote for any candidate.  This is what Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are hoping for.

Newt will not drop out

Newt wants to be president, and his campaign has released his path to victory.  Step one is to simply stay in the race.  This is from an e-mail blast the campaign sent out:

“Santorum needs Newt to stay in the race to deny Romney as many delegates as possible to keep him from getting the required number of delegates before the Republican National Convention in Tampa. If that happens then Romney would fail to get enough votes on the first ballot to secure the nomination. After losing the first ballot, all the delegates are released and can vote for any candidate they choose.”

This is not completely true because the state rules vary wildly – as I mentioned in Georgia the delegates are bound possibly through the first two rounds.  But their plan is simple.  Keep Romney from getting the 1,144 delegates required to ensure the nomination in the first round of voting, then count on Newt being able to sway enough delegates at the national convention to win the nomination.  There are still others who are hoping that no candidate receives the majority during the early rounds and the GOP offers up a candidate who wasn’t even involved in the primary voting.  While possible, this is the most unlikely outcome of all.

Mitt Romney hasn’t won, and even if by some counts he has 1,144 delegates nothing is certain until the national convention.  There are challenges to delegate assignments in a number of states that will have to be resolved before the delegate count is certain, but if Romney ends up with well past the 1,144 number in early estimates then the outcome becomes more certain.  However to get to the magic number Romney will have to win 45% of all the remaining delegates.

Additional Resources:

Fox News has an excellent overview of the whole GOP race, with results from each state along with dates for upcoming votes, poll results and estimated delegate counts.  Click HERE to visit the Fox website.  You can even drill down and see vote results by county and view exit polling data.  CNN did a good job also – click HERE to see their scorecard.

Jason Thompson, the Georgia 7th District GOP Chairman (and an attorney) has written an excellent article that goes into much more detail, which you can find by clicking HERE.