Santorum Concedes: He Can’t Win The Nomination Outright

Winning by losing? Strategy memo is less a “path to victory” as it is a path to a contested convention.

Eric Gay / AP

Santorum talks with supporters during a stop at Sweet Peppers Deli, Sunday, March 11, 2012, in Tupelo, Miss.

Rick Santorum has conceded that he can’t win a majority of the delegates to the Republican National Convention outright.

In a strategy memo pushing back on Mitt Romney’s narrative that it will take an “act of God” to deny him the nomination, advisor John Yob argued that they have a strategy to win — at a contested convention.

Majority Needed for Romney, Not for Santorum
Mitt Romney must have a majority on the first ballot in order to win the nomination because he will perform worse on subsequent ballots as grassroots conservative delegates decide to back the more conservative candidate. Subsequently, Santorum only needs to be relatively close on the initial ballot in order to win on a later ballot as Romney’s support erodes.

The memo, to be distributed today, indicates that the Santorum campaign seems more concerned with arguing that Romney will not win a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention, rather than making the case for why he will. Indeed, the over-2,000-word memo only addresses the possibility of Santorum reaching a majority in its final paragraph, and only as a throw-away.

Central to Santorum’s strategy are county and state conventions, which select delegates to the convention in caucus states. Santorum’s campaign asserts that they will outperform their caucus-night delegate shares because convention-goers are by-and-large more conservative than the average Republican voter. But they are making the (weak) assumption that Ron Paul’s libertarian army won’t try the same thing.

The strategy memo also argues that Romney will have difficulty reaching the 50-percent threshold in a three- or four-person race — an argument that is even more true for Santorum, who lacks the same organization and fundraising capacity as the front-runner.

This is a winning-by-losing strategy — and a hard one to sell to voters and donors.

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