Despite the efforts of the Romney campaign and media treatment of the Republican nominating process as all but wrapped up in his favor, the reality is the GOP race continues on for several reasons.
There remains a substantial and meritorious challenge to Gov. Romney receiving 50 delegates from Florida and 29 delegates from Arizona, based on the systems that those states used to award delegate. Both basically used winner-take-all rules, in a violation of RNC policy. It's a view shared by Michael Steele, former RNC Chair who presided over the implementing of such rules.
Under his leadership, Republicans moved away from a winner–take-all system in primaries by barring the traditional top vote-getter from receiving all the delegates, at least until after April 1st. Commencing April 1st, the traditional top vote-getter winner-take-all system is allowed, although a numbers of states declined to use it.
While it is complicated, the new rules prohibit, at least until April 1st, a scenario where Candidate 1, who gets 35% of the vote, receives all of a state's delegates, whereas another candidate gets 28% of the vote and zero delegate allotment. This is why the Florida results and the Arizona votes are suspect. However, any other system, assuming that they indeed followed RNC sanctioned procedures (Michigan is an example of a dispute) is acceptable.
In order to spark a delegate challenge, all it takes is a registered Republican voter to file a protest with the RNC. The party's contest committee would have to consider the protest when it meets in August just prior the Republican National Convention. Ditto is true for Arizona. And, in such case, the entirety of the challenged state's delegation can vote on the issue or be seated until it is resolved. Unless Gov. Romney has more than 1044 delegates without Florida and Arizona, this is not an esoteric procedural issue.
Illustrating these points are the primaries coming up on April 3rd.
In the District of Columbia, the top vote getter gets all 16 delegates. This is acceptable because this is a post-April 1st primary.
In Maryland, 24 district delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the 8 congressional districts. Each congressional district is assigned 3 National Convention delegates and the presidential contender receiving the greatest number of votes in that district will receive all 3 of that district's National Convention delegates. The National Convention District delegates are directly elected on the primary ballot. Each voter chooses up to 3 delegates and the 3 highest vote getters are elected. As such, these delegates while they are required to vote for the winner in said district, are really soft pledged delegates. 10 at-large delegates are to be allocated to the presidential contender receiving the greatest number of votes in the primary statewide. Maryland follows the system used in South Carolina.
In Wisconsin, 24 district delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the 8 congressional districts: each congressional district is assigned 3 National Convention delegates and the presidential contender receiving the greatest number of votes in that district will receive all 3 of that district's delegates. 18 at-large delegates (are to be allocated to the presidential contender receiving the greatest number of votes in the primary statewide. Wisconsin also follows the system used in South Carolina.
None of the Florida or Arizona delegates won by Gov.Romney should be included in any hard counts. Of Dr. Paul’s delegates, zero face any legitimate challenge.
The delegate allocations used by the Associated Press or any other media outlet, with the exception of The Green Papers, should be considered critically. The AP awards delegates based on how candidates do in caucus contest, while these states do not in fact award delegates to caucus winners at that point. That is why delegate allocations from Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Washington State and other venues do not matter.
The second under reported story is what is actually occurring in the caucus states, where according to the RNC, no delegates have been awarded yet. Many developments, including the emergence of Dr. Paul supporters as critically important in Nevada's Republican apparatus, would be troubling to some establishment Republicans nationally. While the "Paulites" control the Nevada delegation, they have committed to follow party rules and vote for Romney on the first ballot but not on procedural votes.
The caucus states that have held a caucus but not yet awarded delegates are Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington State. These states total 251 delegates. According to the information seeping out of these events, Gov. Romney is getting crushed in these real delegate allocations. It is no surprise why: save for LDS voters, Gov. Romney does not exactly have an enthusiastic base of supporters.
In fact, in all the exit polling, voters would rather have their candidates fight on rather than rallying around Gov. Romney. Sen. Santorum even has more loyal supporters, despite his continual lag in organizational aspects of a national campaign.
One candidate who has both organization and enthusiastic supporters is Dr. Paul. His supporters tend to be younger, more educated, have the time to go to a caucus on a weekend and have no formal party affiliation in the states. If current reports hold true, of those 251 delegates still pending from caucus states, Dr. Paul is likely to get at least 200, if not more. Even with that boost, mathematically, it is no more likely that Dr. Paul will be the GOP nominee. However, his delegates – including those pledged to other candidates in such states as Nevada - may well decide what happens at the Tampa GOP Convention.