Republicans who blame party rules for a protracted primary race may be mistaken.

A rule requiring early-voting states to award delegates on a proportional basis “was the dumbest idea anybody ever had,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Feb. 23 on Fox News. Christie, supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, disparaged the rule because Republicans are running against President Barack Obama, who won’t face a primary challenge, and Republican presidential hopefuls will “beat each other up even longer.”

Yet in many states, including some of the 11 that vote on so-called Super Tuesday on March 6, candidates can amass large delegate advantages just by winning pluralities. The 11 states control 466 delegates; to win the nomination a candidate needs 1,144 delegates out of the 2,286 that will be awarded nationwide.

While the Republican National Committee requires that contests before April must award delegates proportionally, it gives the state parties a lot of leeway. A state party need only award some delegates proportionally to comply with the rule — not all or even most of them. State parties may award most delegates on a winner-take-all basis to the top vote-getter.

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