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Santorum Fiddles With Delegate Counts as Illinois Burns

"We do assume that some of the folks who are keeping these counts will begin to keep the counts based on the relevant processes, rather than the irrelevant processes," Brabender said.

Brabender and Santorum's campaign are correct to point out that delegate counts tallied by The Associated Press, NBC and other news outlets are speculative. Media delegate tallies are often based on proportion of the straw polls' popular vote. The straw polls that typically preface the tiresome caucus processes, which actually chooses binding delegates.

As it stands, Romney leads Santorum 521 to 253 delegates, while Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trail with 136 and 50, respectively, according to the AP.

Prospects appear grimmer when delegate counts eliminate all the non-binding straw polls that Santorum won: Romney 339, Gingrich 107, Santorum 95 and Paul 22.

Santorum has 158 less delegates as reported by state parties to the Republican National Committee.

When asked why the campaign had used an hour to stage a conference call about delegate math on the same day of Illinois' important primary, a Santorum aide said in a phone call that it was meant to put things into perspective.

"We're quite a bit closer to Gov. Romney than the major media points out a lot of the time, and I think once these state conventions start coming through you're going to start seeing some numbers that are a little bit different than what is being put out there," the aide said.

Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said in the conference call that the campaign was "not focused on delegate math."

Of Illinois' 69 total delegates, only 54 are at stake on Tuesday . The state will allot the remainder in June. Through Tuesday, Santorum trailed Romney by 10 percentage points in an average of Illinois surveys, according to RealClearPolitics.com.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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