03/20/2012 03:24 pm ET

Here's How That Romney-Paul Alliance Works

Earlier today, we made note of the fact that Rick Santorum's "delegate math" argument was built partially on the belief that his delegate wranglers could successfully tend to the sprawling convention process in the various caucus states and pull a larger-than-expected share of the delegates into his column.

Of course, before this became the "Rick Santorum delegate strategy," we knew this as the "Ron Paul delegate strategy." We also know that while the Santorum camp only started figuring this out about three weeks ago, the Paul campaign has long been training up their footsoldiers in the nuts and bolts of caucus strategy.

Furthermore, we also have heard of this "alliance" between Paul and Mitt Romney.

Stir all that together, and what do you get? Smash cut to the Associated Press, reporting in Missouri:

Rick Santorum easily won Missouri's non-binding primary last month. But he was shut out from receiving delegates at some of the local caucuses that occurred over the weekend after Romney and Paul supporters combined to advance their own slate of delegates.


It's at those later meetings that delegates actually will be bound to support particular presidential candidates. That means Santorum still could emerge with most of Missouri's delegates. But that could be made more difficult if supporters of Romney and Paul stick to their alliance.

Remember when Michael Falcone reported that "the Santorum campaign believes they will receive the vast majority of the delegates in Iowa and Missouri and they are seeing signs of encouragement in Washington State." Well, in Missouri anyway, those sky-high aspirations just fell back to earth.

The Daily Beast's Ben Jacobs has an excellently detailed report on everything that unfolded in Missouri with Rick Santorum and his battle with the Romney/Paul Alliance. But here's the key takeaway:

In a Republican primary process that has been more convoluted than a pretentious student film, Missouri’s rules are uniquely confusing and uniquely prone to exploitation by a well-organized campaign. Paul’s operation, designed to maximize caucus-state delegates, has stepped into the void left by Santorum’s underwhelming operation.

So, some of Santorum's troubles are related to a uniquely strange process in Missouri. Santorum's delegate counter John Yob tells Dave Weigel that the Santorum campaign's failures in Missouri were limited to a few counties, but it's pretty clear that Santorum's new math, which places him much closer to Romney's total, is founded on the most optimistic take on the possibilities -- so minor mistakes loom large. What's more important, of course, is this "void" that's been created by "Santorum's underwhelming operation." That may not be a phenomenon limited to Missouri.

The bottom line is that Santorum's cash-strapped, still-getting-up-to-speed campaign is struggling to beat the better-organized Paul and the staggeringly well-funded Romney. And the latter two are working together. This is going to be a tough road for Rick Santorum.

Romney and Paul Team Up, Try to Snatch Santorum’s Missouri Delegates [Daily Beast]

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