In honor of Tuesday's delegate-free caucuses and primary, NPR is launching a 2012 Delegate Tracker.
The NPR Elections Unit tracker credits a candidate with delegates only when party rule or state law unambiguously awards those delegates to that candidate. New Hampshire and Nevada, for example, have clear rules for how delegates are to be awarded according to the proportion of the votes received on Election Day. Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado, in contrast, require several additional steps before awarding any delegates at all. Delegates will actually be awarded weeks and months after the elections.
Florida and Arizona present a separate issue: The two states violate both the GOP's calendar rule not permitting contests before March 6 (except for the four "carve-out" states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada), as well as a separate rule prohibiting winner-take-all formats before April 1. Both states were penalized by the Republican National Committee for the calendar violation with a loss of 50 percent of their delegates. Both also face challenges to their winner-take-all schemes at the August convention in Tampa.
The NPR tracker also ignores the votes of RNC members not bound by the results of the elections. These votes by definition can be switched from one candidate to another at the sole discretion of the RNC member.
For now, despite his rough night, the NPR tracker shows Mitt Romney leading with 73 delegates; Newt Gingrich in second with 29; Ron Paul in third place with 8; and Tuesday's big winner, Rick Santorum, in last place with 3 delegates. All have a long way to go to get to 1,144, the number needed to secure the GOP nomination.
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