I’m not ashamed to admit that I mostly watch politics for the horse race. I have opinions, but they tend to vary across the political spectrum, so I’m not really in the tank for any particular party or candidate (though there are certainly candidates I am adamently against).
So I’m definitely part of the “chattering class” that would love nothing more than to see a brokered GOP convention. In addition to the entertainment value, I think it might actually be valuable to a political process – I think we’re getting closer and closer to some sort of radical party realignment in the next decade or so (we’re due). The chaos and open-nature of a brokered convention (even one that ultimately led to the nomination of one of the existing candidates) would, I think, help to make that happen.
I’ve read a bunch of articles today about the possibility of a brokered convention. My question today is: What would that look like going forward? What would have to happen in Michigan, Arizona, Super Tuesday, etc., to keep the possibility in the air? The chance of a brokered convention are, I think, slim – looking at the milestones that would have to be hit in order to GET a brokered convention will help determine when we’ve gotten off the path. My projected “glide slope” after the jump….
First, just the basics – if a candidate gets more than 50% of the total delegates (1144), they are guaranteed the nomination at the convention. If no single candidate gets to 1144, after the first ballot the delegates can change their votes if they want. The candidates can make deals between each other, likely with one agreeing to pledge their delegates in exchange for the VP slot, speech, etc.
To me, the most plausible scenario for the above would be a tight race between Romney and Santorum, with Paul and Gingrich staying in the race and getting enough delegates to spoil it for both of the top contenders (It could be 45%, 40%, 15% and 10%, for instance). What’s important to note is that Paul and Gingrich’s role in the race is far more important than Romney or Santorum’s head-to-head performance. If Paul and/or Gingrich drop out or just collapse in the polls, it turns into a heads-up fight – if that happens, I think momentum will take either Romney or Santorum over the top, and they’ll be able to run the table for the last few primaries, getting to that magical 1144. Even if Paul and Gingrich stay in, that momentum factor is the #1 thing that will prevent a brokered convention – if either Romney or Santorum (probably Romney) can get a substantial lead going, that will tend to build on itself and allow him to start running up the score in the back half of the primary schedule.
The other aspect to remember is the gap between the last primary (July 31) and the convention (Aug 27). Normally, that time is used by the presumptive nominee to start framing the general. If no candidate gets to 1144, that time will be used by all the candidates to start horse-trading for a deal. If there were a split like the one I outlined above, Gingrich and Paul would have a powerful incentive to make a deal BEFORE the convention starts – my understanding of the rules are a little hazy, but my understanding is that after the first ballot, their delegates become free agents, so Gingrich and Paul would lose their direct control over them.
In the near term:
Feb 28, Michigan and Arizona: This will be a key “framing” battle for the big stash of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday. This has to be either a split or both go for Santorum – if Romney wins both, it pokes a big hole in the Santorum balloon.
Mar 6, Super Tuesday, (Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia): Two key things to watch here – Ohio and Georgia. Ohio, because of it’s “belweather” status, gives the winner an important “electability” credential. Georgia, because it’s a must win for Gingrich – without it, he probably drops out, and the chances of Gingrich/Paul getting a spoiling number of delegates goes down drastically. With it, he gets a boost and a good chunk of delegates.
If all of that happens, the possibility goes up drastically, and we’ll see where it goes from there….