Despite losses in Alabama and Mississippi, Mitt Romney lost little ground to Rick Santorum in the delegate chase last week — thanks primarily to wins in offshore territories, whose residents will not be allowed to vote for president come November.
Santorum had his best delegate week between his victory in the Kansas caucuses March 10 and his wins in the Deep South on March 13. The week ended Sunday with a primary in Puerto Rico.
In nine contests between March 10 and March 18, Santorum picked up 73 delegates, while Romney won 69.
That figure, though, includes victories in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, and American Samoa in the South Pacific. Romney was able to increase his margin over Santorum by 3, 20 and 6 delegates, respectively.
Romney also won caucuses in Guam and the Northern Marianas, but no bound delegates are awarded in those contests. The delegates chosen said in both of those Pacific island caucuses that they would support Romney, but they are not bound by rules to do so.
While the residents of those territories can vote in presidential primaries, they do not vote in November presidential elections and have no representation in the Electoral College.
When those 29 delegates are subtracted, Santorum would have won 73 delegates in that period, to Romney's 40.
By NPR's count heading into the Illinois primary Tuesday, Romney leads Santorum 416 delegates to 183. Newt Gingrich has 136 delegates and Ron Paul 34.
A candidate must reach 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican nomination.
S.V. Dáte is the NPR Washington Desk's congressional editor.