Whether the race is nearly over or not is a choice for voters and candidates to make. But what's been spent by whom and for what tells us something about the four remaining campaigns -- where they are, where they have been and how they have fared.
That eye-popping headline is right. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has spent $496,461 per delegate. He's spent $30.35 per vote. He's the most profligate candidate in the race when it comes to return-on-investment (ROI to Romney).
Or is he?
The Paul campaign says they've spent wisely and will prove it over time (back to that in a minute).
The Paul math goes like this: According to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Paul has spent $32,766,465. He's received 1,079,753 votes for a cost-per-vote total of $30.35. He's won 66 delegates for a cost-per-delegate total of $496,461.
Doug Weed, a senior Paul adviser offered the following:
"The delegate counts, such as those promoted by the New York Times and The Associated Press are pure media fiction. So your delegate-per-dollar is skewed. For example, they (NYT and AP) say the delegate count in Iowa is Santorum 14, Romney 12 and Paul 1. We have one delegate in Iowa? Hmm. I don't want to reveal too much, but our delegate strategy is doing just fine and it is worth every dollar."
Maybe so. But the raw numbers based on available delegate counts don't look good for Paul.
Romney's cost-per-vote (CPV) total is $16.18. His cost-per-delegate (CPD) is $118,218.
The math: $66,793,395 spent with 4,127,917 votes and 565 delegates.
Santorum's CPV is an amazing $4.56 cents. That's just over a quarter of Romney's and about a seventh of Paul's.
Santorum's CPD is $50,873.
He's spent $13,023,588 and won 2,850,546 votes and 256 delegates. Imagine if Romney or Paul were this efficient? Imagine if the federal government or a private business was this efficient?
"Clearly, Rick Santorum has proven that among the GOP presidential contenders he has been able to do much more while spending much less," said chief strategist John Brabender. "Isn't that exactly what we are asking the next president to do?"
Brabender said this is the crux of why Santorum won't quit. He seems to have a point. Would anyone in politics who had done this much with so little just chuck it? Would that candidate tell supporters who made something out of almost nothing to just give up and go away? Some might. But most wouldn't. Brabender said Santorum will not. At least not yet.
What about Gingrich? Maybe shedding one-third of his staff and charging $50 a photo will bring new efficiency. He'll need it.
Gingrich's CPV is $8.91. Gingrich's CPD is $139,830. Here's the math: $19,716,106 spent for 2,212,001 votes and 141 delegates.
These numbers don't include Super PAC funds spent on behalf of the candidates (either for them or against their rivals).