Santorum Wants to Talk Presidential Path Instead of Delegate Math

The GOP candidates are fighting over delegates, with Rick Santorum's campaign saying Mitt Romney's camp is lying about the amount of delgates it currently holds.

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Rick Santorum says he's down but not out.

At least, that's what the GOP presidential candidate's campaign staffers said to reporters Tuesday. Sick ofreading reports of tallies with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a 2-to-1 delegate lead, Santorum's team discussed delegate math, laying bare why they believe they are still very much in the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination..

"The counts that you see in the AP and other news outlets are, we believe, to be way off base, because they are working with a lot of presumptions and adding in a lot of delegates that haven't been awarded properly," said Santorum campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley. "We're following the rules, we are honest in this situation – we're not saying this is going to happen, we are saying this is what could potentially happen. This is what we're focused on to win this nomination."

[Read: Romney looks to roll in Illinois.]

According to the Associated Press delegate count that includes estimates of how some delegates will be awarded, Romney leads the pack with 522. Santorum has 252, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 136 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 50. A candidate must secure 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.

But according to John Yob, Santorum's national delegate director, the actual numbers show Romney with 435 delegates, Santorum with 311, Gingrich with 158 and Paul with 91.

Many of the states that have already held statewide primaries haven't actually picked the delegates that will get sent to the national convention where the nominee is chosen, Yob argued, and when they do, Santorum will outperform Romney.

"Rick Santorum being the more conservative candidate in the race would pick up delegates because the folks who attend district and state conventions are more conservative," he said. "And a more moderate candidate who doesn't have the support of the grassroots base of the party like Mitt Romney would naturally lose delegates as he competes in contests that are made up by more conservative folks."

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The actual manner in which delegates are awarded varies state by state, with some so-called 'bound' and others 'unbound,' creating limited potential for fluidity. It is unlikely, however, that Romney's campaign will sit idly by as Santorum representatives on the ground sweep up their delegates.

Still, it's a trend Santorum's team says has already started in places like Iowa and Missouri, which just recently elected actual delegates, despite holding their statewide "beauty contests" much earlier this year.

Another assumption made by Santorum's campaign is that states like Arizona and Florida, which held their primaries earlier than the Republican National Committee rules allowed, will actually be punished. Instead of being winner-take-all, they would be proportional, something that would negatively impact Romney, who won both states' contests.

[See photos of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

"It is difficult for any candidate to get to 1,144 and we acknowledge that. That said, there is a path for us to get to 1,144. We are working down that path," Yob said.

An exasperated Gidley said the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign would rather not be talking about delegate math, but has been forced to do so based on the media coverage of the race..

"Romney's treating it as a foregone conclusion and he's putting delegates in his count that aren't there," Gidley said. "We're just trying to point out the fact that regardless of the situation, it just seems like the Romney campaign cannot be truthful in the message that they are trying to articulate."

More delegates will be distributed Tuesday, as voters in Illinois head to the primary polls. That will be followed by Saturday's primary in Louisiana.

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