WAYNESBURG, Ohio -– There have been at least four different numbers thrown out over the last week or so when discussing how many delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday.
The Huffington Post has used the number 437, MSNBC is going with 424, the Associated Press has said 419 and the Romney campaign sent out a memo over the weekend saying there are 391.
HuffPost will be using the AP's figure of 419 delegates. But in an attempt to explain why there have been so many different numbers, let's start with the 10 states holding primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, and look at how many delegates each of them has.
Alaska: 27 delegates
Georgia: 76 delegates
Idaho: 32 delegates
Massachusetts: 41 delegates
North Dakota: 28 delegates
Ohio: 66 delegates
Oklahoma: 43 delegates
Tennessee: 58 delegates
Vermont: 17 delegates
Virginia: 49 delegates
All together, that's 437 delegates.
But the Romney campaign used the 391 number for two reasons.
First, it is not counting North Dakota's 28 delegates. That's because the Rough Rider State is holding caucuses, and the results of voting in those caucuses recommends, but does not bind, delegates when they go to the national convention. "Delegates remain free to vote their conscience on all balloting," the rules state, according to the indispensable site, TheGreenPapers.com.
Second, the Romney campaign is not counting the three delegate spots in many states that are apportioned to state party leaders. These delegates are also similar to the "super delegates" that became a big focus of the Democratic primary in 2008. They are not bound to any candidate and can vote any way they want at the GOP convention in Tampa this August. On Super Tuesday, six states – Alaska, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia – have these super delegates. Only Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota and Vermont do not.
So the Romney campaign takes the 28 delegates out of North Dakota and the 18 from the six states with super delegates out of the equation, for a net subtraction from 437 of 46 delegates. That's how it gets 391.
MSNBC, like the Romney campaign, is not counting the 18 super delegates. But it is counting North Dakota and part of an entire other state, Wyoming, pushing its Super Tuesday total from 10 states to 11 states.
However, the AP and HuffPost are not going to include Wyoming in the day's total count, even though there will be reports about the five delegates from the state.
To call Wyoming's process complicated would be a huge understatement. It holds county conventions, not primaries or caucuses, and only county precinct officers elected in August 2010 can attend and vote.
The conventions are held in six counties on Tuesday, in one county Wednesday, in one on Thursday, and in 15 Saturday. Half of the counties pick delegates and half pick alternates. And even after all that, only 12 of Wyoming's 29 delegates will be apportioned, and very loosely. The remaining 17 are to be apportioned at the state convention from April 12 to April 14.
But like North Dakota and many other caucus states, the delegates will not be legally bound to any candidate.
"There is no formal system applied in the County Convention to relate the presidential preference of the Convention participants to the choice of either the county's delegates to the State Convention or the delegate(s) to the National Convention the County Convention is helping to choose," Green Papers says. "The participants at each County Convention alone determine if presidential preference is to be a factor in such choices and, if so, how it is to be applied. All delegates are officially unbound."
The same rules apply to Wyoming's state convention.
This minutiae could turn out to be important, because if the primary is still close in a month or so, these state conventions in many caucus states will become full-blown battles for delegates.
So MSNBC subtracts the 18 super delegates but keeps North Dakota's 28 and adds on five from Wyoming, bringing their count to 424.
But the AP is not including Wyoming's results in its official count until Saturday, when another seven counties will choose delegates. So by removing the 18 super delegates, keeping North Dakota's 28 and excluding Wyoming, that puts the delegate total at 419.