North Carolina is poised to play a significant role in the Republican presidential race for the first time in almost 40 years.
Even if Mitt Romney — who currently leads the delegate count at 565 — wins 100 percent of the vote in all the state primaries hereafter, he still won’t have the required 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination before the state’s primary on May 8.
The state last played a role in the Republican presidential primaries in 1976 with Ronald Reagan’s upset victory against incumbent President Gerald Ford in a March primary.
Ford was eventually named the nominee at a brokered Republican National Convention.
James Stimson, a political science professor at UNC, said part of the reason the Republican nomination process has lasted so long this year is due to a change in the rules.
“Usually a primary campaign is about momentum. This one is very unusual in the sense that it keeps dragging on,” he said. “Romney will still have a fight on his hands come May, so the North Carolina primary will matter.”
In a primary, a state’s delegates are awarded to either the winner of the popular vote or on a proportional basis. North Carolina will award its delegates on a proportional basis this year, meaning the 55 delegates will be divided among all the candidates based on the number of votes they receive.
“(Republicans) made more states proportional rather than winner take all, and that directly effects how soon you can wrap it up,” Stimson said.
Stimson said he is surprised the Republicans changed the primary rules because Democrats have been at a disadvantage by dividing their delegates proportionally.