The faceoff between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has already entered the ugly and negative phase, so it may be hard to believe that Romney is just set to accrue the required delegates to secure the nomination with the results in Texas today.
Romney has had several weeks now to get used to his presumptive nominee status. Remember Rick Santorum dropped out in April, followed three weeks later by Gingrich. Ron Paul is still looking to build on his base of support for the convention, but he conceded primary state turf to Romney turf in mid-May.
Four years ago, John McCain had the nomination wrapped up nearly three months ahead of this year, securing the required delegates by early March. The primary schedule then was more front-loaded in 2008. Super Tuesday nominating contests came a full month earlier four years ago than this year. That meant that 29 states had divvied up delegates by the end of the first week of February in 2008, and nine of those states were winner-take-all.
By Super Tuesday on March 6 this year, 22 held nominating contests, and just four were winner-take-all.
But not all of the differences between the four years are attributable to the calendar and the move toward more proportional delegate results. University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket pointed out in a post in March that Romney also won contested delegates at slower rate than McCain four years ago.
So, if it feels like this year’s Republican primary campaign has already gone on much longer than you remember, it’s not just you. It has.