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Pro-Rick Santorum Super PAC Lays Out State-By-State Strategy For Erasing Mitt Romney's Delegate Lead

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WASHINGTON -- Rick Santorum's presidential campaign has divulged a few specifics about how they think they can catch up to Mitt Romney in the race for 1,144 delegates. But they've kept most of the details to themselves.

So it was something of a surprise last Thursday when the super PAC supporting Santorum, the Red, White & Blue Fund, got in on the delegate math sweepstakes, releasing a more extensive memo than anyone else in the presidential race -- campaign or super PAC -- has put out to date.

The 39-page memo -- which included delegate rules for each state that has already voted in the process -- emphasized that the biggest section of the delegate pie so far was made up of unbound delegates: 638 by their count.

The RWB Fund's count still had Santorum behind former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in the delegate hunt, but emphasized the fluid nature of the contest. Romney's 344 delegates and Santorum's 193 delegates were dwarfed, they argued, by the much larger number of delegates who will be allotted in the state convention process that is just getting started.

The Huffington Post asked the RWB Fund for more details, and super PAC officials responded with specifics on, "where we see Santorum being able to meet or exceed Romney's totals to date," as the fund's executive director, Nick Ryan, said.

Ryan said that their calculations show them on track to win above around 520 delegates, once they factor in states where they think they can take delegates away from Romney in the state convention process, and after they add in the delegates that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has won so far.

"We see Newt Gingrich delegates -- who will all be unbound if Newt isn't eligible on the first ballot [at the national convention] -- as going nearly unanimously for Rick," Ryan told HuffPost in an e-mail.

It is an exceedingly optimistic projection that appears highly unlikely at this point in the race, largely because the national momentum Santorum would need to take over state conventions and pack them with supporters -- leading to a large shift in the number of national convention delegates pledged to him -- is slipping away from him rather than accumulating.

"They can make up any kind of math they want," a senior Romney adviser, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, told HuffPost. "The bottom line is, you gotta get there. And we keep picking up delegates."

But here are the numbers, which were developed for the RWB Fund largely by Jason Torchinsky, who served as counsel to an assistant attorney general in the administration of former President George W. Bush, and who was also deputy general counsel to Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.

Ryan and Torchinsky said the RWB Fund sees an opportunity to pick up roughly 120 delegates in seven states and two territories: 23 in Florida, 13 in Arizona, 12 in Idaho, 39 in Missouri, 10 in Washington, 10 in Wyoming, nine in North Dakota, two in American Samoa and two in the Northern Marianas Islands.

Florida, Arizona and Idaho are in a different category than the rest of the states listed. They are winner-take-all states where Romney is currently projected by The Associated Press to have won all of the combined 111 delegates.

But the Santorum campaign has argued that each state violated Republican National Committee rules by moving its primary ahead of April 1 and keeping it as a winner-take-all contest instead of changing it so that delegates were awarded proportionally according to the percentage of the popular vote that each candidate got.

In order for these states to be forced to award their delegates proportionally, the Santorum campaign would have to bring a challenge to the RNC at the national convention in Tampa, Fla., this August and receive a favorable ruling.

The RWB Fund's counts of what Santorum would receive from Florida, Arizona and Idaho combine the number of delegates they say would come to Santorum in a proportional system, as well as the delegates that would be due to Gingrich.

As for the remaining four states and two territories, those are delegates that the RWB Fund thinks can be picked off before the national convention. In some places, like North Dakota, Santorum already did well, winning 40 percent of the popular vote and an estimated 11 delegates out of 28. But the RWB Fund thinks Santorum can take the seven delegates that the AP estimates will go to Romney and the two slated for Gingrich.

In other places, like Washington state, the delegate gain would mean erasing Romney's huge delegate lead by stacking the state convention with more Santorum supporters than Romney or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Paul is also very active in organizing supporters to become delegates at the state conventions that then vote on who will be the state's national convention delegates.

Romney won 37.6 percent of the popular vote in Washington, and an estimated 30 of 40 delegates, with five going to Santorum and five going to Paul. Ryan and Torchinsky think Santorum can pick up 10, increasing his count to 15 and knocking Romney's number down to 20.

And then in far-flung locales, such as the Northern Mariana Islands -- which are on the other side of the world -- the RWB Fund is basically guessing that they can win over two delegates there, as in American Samoa. Both territories award a total of nine delegates each.

Torchinsky said the estimates that Santorum can pick up delegates in the territories were "educated guesses based on rough numbers," rather than being based on any real political intelligence.

"Seems that of 18 people, convincing 4 that Rick is the right guy is reasonable," Torchinsky told HuffPost.

It is noteworthy, however, that the RWB Fund's math looks different than the calculus being used by the Santorum campaign. Santorum's top delegate counter, John Yob, told reporters just a week ago that they saw a way of stripping Romney of 80 delegates.

"A big part of Romney's drop would be coming from Washington," Yob said.

But in Torchinsky's analysis, Washington is only a small part of the overall strategy, with Missouri and Florida being much bigger factors. Missouri is another case, however, where there are real questions about whether Santorum's organizing prowess and strength among the grassroots is what his campaign and supporters say it is. Romney and Paul have both made gains in the process of stacking the state convention with supporters, according to news reports.

Nevertheless, Jeff Berman, who ran President Obama's delegate operation in the 2008 campaign, said that the state convention process (for more on that process click here) is an opportunity for Santorum.

"When it came to the state conventions, we took control of some of these conventions and the national convention delegate numbers actually moved a little bit in our favor compared to early projections based on caucus results," Berman, who wrote a book about the 2008 race, told HuffPost.

"Given the lack of a GOP proportional delegate allocation requirement for most caucus states, [Santorum has] a lot more room to improve if they have that strength at these conventions," he said.

It is just simply not clear how well organized the Santorum campaign is. Organization is needed to first of all make sure one's supporters are elected to the state convention that elects national delegates. It is needed secondly to keep track of a candidate's strength state-by-state. For example, the state convention in Iowa will have 2,500 delegates voting in two phases on who will fill 28 national convention delegate slots.

When HuffPost asked Yob last week for a list of how many of those 2,500 state convention delegates were for Santorum, he demurred.

"It certainly wouldn't be wise for us to release our identification data to the Romney campaign for them to be able to have our information," Yob said.

CORRECTION: The original article identified Jason Torchinsky incorrectly as an assistant attorney general during the Bush administration. He was counsel to an assistant attorney general.

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