RNC count: Romney passes halfway mark in delegate chase

Mitt Romney holds a solid lead in delegates over his competitors for the GOP presidential nomination, according to a new count from the Republican National Committee.

Wins this week by Romney in three primaries pushed him past the halfway mark in the delegate count, although his nearest competitor, Rick Santorum, contests the way the delegates are being awarded. 

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Romney leads all contenders with 573 delegates, more than double his closest rival, Santorum's 202, out of a total 1,144, according to the RNC

Newt Gingrich, who has dialed back his campaign to making phone calls to delegates, has 132 while Ron Paul has 26 by the RNC count.

The RNC said the numbers "do not reflect any potential delegate disputes and this information may change based on the results that come in after the initial vote that may affect the delegate count."

The delegate count is based on information provided to the RNC by each state party which has held a presidential primary, caucus or convention to date where delegates were bound or delegates have publicly endorsed a candidate.

The Associated Press count, which is cited by most media outlets, gives Romney 660 delegates, compared with Santorum's 281. Gingrich and Paul trail with 135 and 51, respectively.

The AP's numbers include delegates, such as RNC members, who have endorsed a candidate outside of primary contests.

On Thursday, Santorum's campaign released a memo arguing that he could garner a significant number of delegates Romney had already won. The campaign's scenario would require several states to change the way in which they award delegates.

The memo also argued that the "race is much closer than the media and Establishment Republicans" are reporting.

Santorum is arguing that Romney's tally is 571 to his 342.

Despite growing speculation that he might end his White House bid, Santorum’s campaign on Saturday announced a series of events for next week. 

The former senator from Pennsylvania has said he must win his home state of Pennsylvania, but his once-wide lead there has evaporated as Romney's campaign expands and builds momentum.

In four other states that vote on April 24 - all in the Northeast - Romney has a substantial lead.