Is this an admission that Rick Santorum can’t win the nomination through the primary process, or just a restatement of the belief that we’re heading to a brokered convention anyway?  BizzFeed’s Zeke Miller gets a Santorum campaign strategy memo that outlines their argument that Mitt Romney isn’t as far ahead as some believe, and that Santorum will pull together the disaffected conservatives that show up in Tampa:

In a strategy memo pushing back on Mitt Romney’s narrative that it will take an “act of God” to deny him the nomination, advisor John Yob argued that they have a strategy to win — at a contested convention.

Majority Needed for Romney, Not for Santorum
Mitt Romney must have a majority on the first ballot in order to win the nomination because he will perform worse on subsequent ballots as grassroots conservative delegates decide to back the more conservative candidate. Subsequently, Santorum only needs to be relatively close on the initial ballot in order to win on a later ballot as Romney’s support erodes.

The memo, to be distributed today, indicates that the Santorum campaign seems more concerned with arguing that Romney will not win a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention, rather than making the case for why he will. Indeed, the over-2,000-word memo only addresses the possibility of Santorum reaching a majority in its final paragraph, and only as a throw-away.

Central to Santorum’s strategy are county and state conventions, which select delegates to the convention in caucus states. Santorum’s campaign asserts that they will outperform their caucus-night delegate shares because convention-goers are by-and-large more conservative than the average Republican voter. But they are making the (weak) assumption that Ron Paul’s libertarian army won’t try the same thing.

In fact, that’s been the assumption all along about the delegate allocation from non-binding primaries.  Ron Paul’s campaign has worked hard to get its own people into the county and state conventions in order to swing the actual delegate allocations to Paul, and they have significant organizations in these states to push that strategy.  Paul needs that not to win the nomination at a brokered convention — no one thinks Paul can get the nod after having won no states — but to push for his platform and to get a significant speaking slot, either for himself or his son, or both.  Santorum’s memo, embedded below, never mentions how his campaign will out-organize both Romney and Paul to gain a higher allocation of delegates than the vote counts indicated in those caucus states — just that he will.

That’s not the only fuzzy thinking, either.  Part of the argument is that Santorum can force a proportional allocation onto Florida and Arizona at the Republican convention, which would be a neat trick, considering that the RNC has no legal authority to dictate allocation to any state.  It can only restrict the number of delegates seated at the convention and some of their benefits.  The memo also includes this curious paragraph:

June 5th – California, New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and New Mexico The candidate who wins the most delegates on June 5th will lead the public delegate count going into the national convention. Rick Santorum will also lead the Real Count by this point.

Both California and New Jersey are winner-take-all, and neither is likely to vote for Santorum — not California, surely, and Chris Christie has backed Romney for months in New Jersey.  Between the two, that accounts for 222 delegates, so even if Santorum gets all of the delegates from New Mexico and South Dakota (which are proportional primaries) and Montana (a non-binding primary) on June 5th, the delegate count on that date is very likely to be no better than 222-77 for Romney. To the extent that this paragraph is accurate, it’s more of an argument against Santorum’s chances.

What this memo says is that Santorum wants to stay in the race just in case Romney’s candidacy implodes for some reason.  That’s not a bad idea, and it won’t hurt to have an alternative with a functioning campaign if that happens.  The same argument can be made for Newt Gingrich, too.

Update: I should have said that a Romney implosion was unlikely, which it is; he’s been campaigning for five years now, and he hasn’t had an implosion yet.  Also, people on Twitter challenged me on the assumption that Romney will win California, as it does have a fairly active conservative base.  However, that base tends more toward fiscal rather than social conservatism, which might benefit Gingrich more if he’s still around.  RCP notes three CA polls in February when Santorum rose to the top tier, and all three show Romney leading Santorum — the last two by six points.  Unless Santorum really turns around the momentum nationally, Romney is likely to build strength in California, or at least not likely to lose strength.

Update II: California is winner-take-all by Congressional district and with 10 statewide delegates.  That means is that we’re likely to see a proportional allocation that heavily favors the popular vote winner, but also likely that a second-place finisher will get some delegates.  I’m not sure that helps Santorum if he comes in second; it certainly doesn’t help his argument.

Santorum Memo