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California may play key role for GOP nominee

Editor's note:

The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Email the California News Service at

cns@ucdc.edu

WASHINGTON • Super Tuesday's split decision gives California a rare opportunity to play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the Republican presidential contest.

The failure of any candidate to take command of the campaign makes it increasingly likely that the state’s June 5 primary and its 172 delegates will be fiercely contested.

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney — who won roughly half the delegates at stake Tuesday — would need to secure more than 60 percent of the delegates in the 28 primaries and caucuses between now and June 5 to clinch the nomination before California’s vote.

Romney’s challengers have an even more daunting task. Rick Santorum would need to win 80 percent of the remaining delegates to claim the nomination before June 5, while Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul would need 87 and 99 percent, respectively.

That makes it increasingly likely that California’s 5 million registered Republicans will have the opportunity to either push Romney over the top June 5, or deprive him of the delegates he needs to secure the nomination before the GOP convention in August.

“California is the treasure trove of delegates,’’ said California Republican Party Chair Tom Del Beccaro, who said that the state is well positioned to put the nominee “over the top.’’

Romney’s campaign used the delegate math to make the case that none of his competitors stood a chance of winning the nomination. In a briefing for reporters in Boston, aides said that Romney needs 48 percent of the remaining delegates to capture the nomination, compared to 65 percent for Santorum and 70 percent for Gingrich, according to the political website Politico.

“The nomination is an impossibility for Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich,” according to a senior Romney aide quoted by Politico. “All we have to do is keep doing what we’re doing (and) we can get the nomination. These guys, it’s going to take some sort of … act of God to get to where they need to be on the nomination prize.”

Romney would need a long winning streak if he wants the nomination wrapped up before June.

Republican candidates must secure 1,144 delegates to win the nomination. According to Associated Press, Romney leads with 415 delegates, followed by Santorum with 176, Gingrich with 105 and Paul — who has yet to win a presidential primary or caucus — with 47.

That leaves Romney needing 729 delegates with roughly 1500 still in play.

Even a Romney sweep of the remaining states might net him less than half the remaining delegates if the campaign remains a four-candidate race.

There are 172 delegates at stake in California, a state often labeled as irrelevant for holding its primary long after the nominees are selected. In 2012, each of the state’s 53 congressional districts is allocated three delegates bound by their district’s primary results, with an additional 10 delegates awarded to the top vote-getter, and three uncommitted until the convention.

The latest Field Poll of state voters, conducted mid-February, showed Romney leading Santorum 31 percent to 25 percent. Paul is favored by 16 percent, while Gingrich trails with 12 percent.


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