Allentown Morning Call
No Republican presidential candidate — not even Mitt Romney — can amass enough delegates to secure the nomination in the next two months.
In other words, when Pennsylvanians vote in the April 24 primary, the state will be in play.
In 2008, Pennsylvania was the epicenter of the political universe as then-candidate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled in a long, drawn-out Democratic primary that continued beyond Pennsylvania and stretched into early June.
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn. And it’s more than likely that at least Romney and Santorum will carve a campaign trail through Pennsylvania this spring.
A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination.
The Republican National Committee only counts delegates who must vote for a certain candidate. By the RNC’s measure, Romney leads Santorum 73-3. Many media outlets rely on The Associated Press, which blends both committed and non-committed delegates. By AP’s count, Romney leads Santorum 105-71.
By either measure, even after delegate-rich Super Tuesday on March 6, the race will be far from over mathematically.
But here’s where it gets tricky.
Unlike the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania four years ago, in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania no delegates will be awarded. It is what some call a beauty contest. On primary day GOP voters elect delegates who can support any candidate they’d like at the Republican National Convention in August.
“I’ll be surprised if they campaign much here,” state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said.
Still, there certainly are bragging rights attached to winning one of the nation’s largest battleground states. Money and momentum flow to winners each step of the way.
“I think the Romney people would definitely want to win the state, Santorum would want to win for psychological reasons, Gingrich and [Ron] Paul from where we sit today would be more concerned about the delegates,” said Charlie Gerow, a veteran Republican consultant in Harrisburg who is heading up Newt Gingrich’s Pennsylvania team.
“If [Romney] loses Pennsylvania, it means that the establishment in the Northeast is not where it should be for him,” Gerow said. “He is the establishment candidate and if he can’t win the establishment state, his story starts to come apart.”
The most recent Pennsylvania poll — completed the day before Santorum won three states in one day — found Romney and the former Pennsylvania senator in a statistical dead heat with 29 percent and 30 percent, respectively. The survey was conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Santorum campaign knows just how good a Pennsylvania win would be for Santorum’s credibility — even if it’s slightly offset by his enjoying home-field advantage.
The Republicans in Pennsylvania, especially those in the Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia suburbs, tend to be more moderate and representative of the types of swing voters the eventual nominee will need to win over in a general election, said G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
The mastermind behind Santorum’s presidential run, consultant John Brabender, said he foresees Pennsylvania having a “big role” in the political primary decision making.
“I think it’s huge,” he said. “Rick Santorum was in five really tough races and won four [in Pennsylvania]. We’d like to make it five out of six.”