Rick Santorum Wants To Get His Hands on New York's Precious Delegates

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First, another look at the numbers, because some people running for office don't seem to get it: Mitt Romney has 658 delegates compared to Rick Santorum's 281. You need 1,144 delegates to win the Republican ticket. At this stage of the primaries, the likelihood of Santorum sinking enough delegates in upcoming contests to beat his rival is virtually zilch.

Yet, Rick persists -- and slides toward the electoral embarrassment zone!

And he plans on keeping up this (wasteful) work in New York. Santorum -- and Newt Gingrich (who?) -- will court well heeled Republicans at a fancypants dinner April 19, five days before the state's 95 delegates are up for grabs. No matter than Romney is beating him by a 2-1 margin in the state.

But Santorum might still accomplish something in New York, even if it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, the New York Times suggests.

You see, the Empire State no longer awards delegates in a winner-takes-all fashion.

As the Times puts it:

"Two delegates will be awarded to the winner in each of the state's 29 Congressional districts. Another 34 delegates will go en masse to any candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote statewide; if no candidate wins an absolute majority, those delegates are distributed proportionally among the candidates who win at least 20 percent of the vote. The final three delegates are to be top state party officials."

Another way: it makes sense for long-shot candidates such as Santorum -- and even Gingrich and Ron Paul -- to campaign here because they could still pick up some delegates.

The odds still seem stacked in Romney's favor, with some pollsters estimating that he'll clean up with 70 percent of the vote.

Also unclear is whether Santorum can keep his super-evangelical base, with one prominent leader of the faith-based voting bloc telling the paper:

"By the time April 24 rolls around, are they going to say, 'It's time to line up behind who looks like the presumptive nominee,' or, 'I still want to vote my values, my heart'?...I think that's the real question: Are people going to be voting the head or the heart? The heart was pretty clear: it was with Santorum."

A lot of Republicans want Santorum to drop out of the race now, so that they can focus time and cash on beating Barack Obama in the general election. Santorum says he would step down "without a doubt" -- if Romney got 1,144 delegates. Until then, he insists, he still has a fighting chance.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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