The Republican Party hasn't really had a competitive race for the nomination since 1980 or so, so everyone's a bit rusty on how this works. Marc Ambinder explains the process and potential sources of strength for the different candidates. Helping Fred Thompson is the "bonus delegates" rule:
Thanks to a quirk in the Republican delegate allocation schema, conservative, Republican candidates have an edge. The Republican National Committee awards bonus delegates to states based on their performance in general elections. States that always vote Republican get additional delegates; states like New York that vote Democratic do not. Bonus delegates account for about 20 of the total number.
As a result, southern states where Thompson is likely to be strong are overrepresented. New York has only 30 percent more delegates than Georgia, despite the former's much larger population. The flipside, however, is that Team Giuliani has persuaded most of the states he thinks he can win to adopt winner-take-all delegate allocation rules "So if the race is down to two candidates -- Thompson and Giuliani -- Giuliani would come in second in the Southern states and receive enough delegates to maintain his advantage." The upshot of all of this is that I think you can imagine scenarios in which a minority viewpoint, like Giuliani's seamless culture of death and warmongering, could wind up securing a majority of delegates.
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