Mitt Romney has repeatedly argued that no rival can catch up to him in the delegate race, making him the inevitable Republican nominee.
But in the convoluted delegate soup that candidates must navigate, another potential outcome has emerged: that Romney himself will come short of securing enough delegates to earn the nomination.
Even the most optimistic delegate projections show it to be nearly impossible for Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich to win the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the GOP nomination.
But both candidates, in particular Gingrich, have said they believe they can keep Romney from hitting the magic number needed to avoid a brokered convention in Tampa this August.
With the finish line so far out of sight, Santorum's campaign can argue reasonably that the race is far from settled while continuing to hammer the inevitably argument that has been a cornerstone of Romney's campaign.
"The biggest stumbling block for Romney is that he's using an atomic bomb to kill an ant, and Santorum just isn't going away," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign.
In turn, Romney's campaign has been forced to play defense, spending money and resources on an increasingly prolonged primary campaign that has sparked concerns it could hurt the GOP in the general election.
"We're focused on this number 1,144 and not on the number 270," O'Connell said, alluding to the number of electoral votes necessary to win the presidency.