Republican presidential nomination process

The next United States Presidential election will be held on 6 November 2012. This year focus is on the Republican Party presidential nomination process as President Obama has announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

The presidential candidate for the Republican Party will have to accumulate at least 1144 delegate votes out of the 2286 on offer at the various primaries and caucuses from January to June this year to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention (27–30 August 2012). The latest primary, held in Illinois, was declared on 21 March 2012, with former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney taking the primary with 46.7 per cent of the vote bringing his delegate count to 558*. Former Senator for Pennsylvania Rick Santorum has been making an unexpected and significant showing having amassed 252* delegate votes after wining 35 per cent of the Illinois primary.

Although the nomination process runs from January to June of an election year, in previous years, the presidential nomination has been known within the first few weeks of the process.

The next event of the 2012 Primary Schedule, the Louisiana primary, being held on 24 March 2012, marks the point in the schedule where 50 per cent of delegates will have been on offer. This year, no candidate will have accumulated the 1144 delegates needed by the Louisiana primary.

A Parliamentary Library publication, United States presidential nomination process explains the nomination process including the differences between primaries and caucuses, the changes to the Republican delegate allocation, the significance of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and the influence of Super PACs (Political Action Committees) in the process.

While commentators speculate on the reasons for the drawn-out nomination process, in actuality the Republican National Party has changed the rules governing the allocation of delegates for this year's process. These changes have lengthened the process by reversing the trend that favoured the front-runner candidate—allowing challenger candidates, such as Rick Santorum, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich and member of the US House of Representatives, Ron Paul to stay in the race far longer than expected.

As well as changes to delegate allocation, the unlimited accumulation and spending of funds by Super PACs have propped up challenger candidates, such as Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who otherwise would not have had the financial capacity to stay in the race. This removes the incentive for challenger candidates, such as Ron Paul, to bow out of the race even though he has only accumulated 78 delegates. Ron Paul has vowed to stay in the process through to the National Convention, while unlikely to gain anywhere near the 1144 delegates needed, his presence means that there will be less delegates available to the front-runner, Mitt Romney.

If no candidate attains a majority of delegates by the Republican National Convention, then the presidential nominee will be fought out on the floor of the Convention.

Republican Candidates

Mitt Romney558
Rick Santorum252
Newt Gingrich155
Ron Paul78

*This number refers to the 'Soft Total' number of delegates awarded to the candidate – that is the number of pledged and unpledged delegates whether allocated formally or not, as best estimated.

Candidates - dropped out of the raceSuspension DateWho they have endorsed
Rick Perry19 January 2012Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman16 January 2012Mitt Romney
Michele Bachmann4 January 2012None as yet

Candidates - dropped out before primariesSuspension DateWho they have endorsed
Gary Johnson28 December 2011Ron Paul
Herman Cain3 December 2011Newt Gingrich
Tim Pawlenty13 August 2011Mitt Romney


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