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Newt Gingrich Has More 'Bound' Delegates Than Rick Santorum, RNC Says

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WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich has won more "bound" delegates than Rick Santorum so far in the Republican presidential primary, according to the official count kept by the Republican National Committee.

Former House Speaker Gingrich (R-Ga.), through Super Tuesday this past week, has won 107 delegates compared to Santorum's 95, according to the RNC's count.

The RNC does not count delegates from states like Iowa in its total. The Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses -- eventually declared for Santorum -- were given huge symbolic importance and played a big role in showing who the party's voters preferred, but did not officially allocate any of the state's 28 delegates to the national convention.

Many caucus states are the same way.

The role of delegates is to go to the party's national convention and cast their ballot for a presidential candidate. A candidate needs a certain amount of delegates to win the nomination. This year, the magic number is 1,144.

So even though Gingrich has only won two primary contests, in South Carolina and Georgia, and former Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.) has won seven -- in Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Misssouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee -- Gingrich has the lead in delegates that are solidly in his column.

That's because Santorum's wins have come mostly in caucus states, where for the most part delegates are not bound to a candidate in the first round of voting. Delegates to the national convention are usually allocated at the state conventions instead, and even then, they have fairly wide latitude to shift allegiances at the national convention.

In the Associated Press estimate of potential delegates, which includes unbound delegates, Santorum has a fairly large lead over Gingrich, with 181 delegates for Santorum to 107 for Gingrich.

But the RNC count does not credit Santorum with the 13 delegates in Iowa, 18 delegates in Colorado, 37 delegates in Minnesota, and 11 delegates in North Dakota that he is estimated to have won.

Gingrich is the only candidate whose delegate total is higher in the RNC tally than in the AP's estimate. The numbers for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) come down, too, because the RNC does not count their wins in caucus states.

Romney's delegate total is 339 in the RNC count, down from 421 in the AP estimate. And Paul has just 22 bound delegates, according to the RNC, compared to a total of 47 in the AP estimate.

But a big part of the Paul campaign's strategy is to do well in caucus states and then compete hard at state conventions for not only the delegate spots they have been estimated to have won, but also to try to fill other candidate's delegate spots with Paul supporters.

In that same vein, the Santorum campaign still has plenty of work ahead of it at county and state conventions to ensure that the delegates that could go for Santorum do in fact do so. They'll have to organize in each state and make sure they have delegates and alternates to fill all the spots they need to fill.

Politically, the news that Gingrich leads Santorum in bound delegates will likely be an easy talking point for the former Speaker, who is looking for reasons to stay in the race as Santorum aides and backers call for him to drop out.

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