Brokered Convention?

Sarah Palin or Jeb Bush could still win the Republican nomination in 2012 and become the next president of the United States.  Really.  In fact, Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie still have a chance too.  How could this be?  Well, it has now become clear that there is a very real chance that no Republican candidate will hold a majority of the delegates by the time the Republican convention rolls around.  If that happens, that would mean that we would have the first “brokered convention” in decades.  The truth is that the Republican establishment does not want this, but they are also scared to death of having someone like Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul as the nominee.  So exactly what is a brokered convention?

The following is how Wikipedia defines a brokered convention….

A brokered convention is a situation in United States politics in which there are not enough delegates ‘won’ during the presidential primary and caucus elections for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority, during the first official vote for a political party’s presidential-candidate at its nominating convention.

Once the first ballot, or vote, has occurred, and no candidate has a majority of the delegates’ votes, the convention is then considered brokered; thereafter, the nomination is decided through a process of alternating political horse-trading, and additional re-votes. In this circumstance, all regular delegates (who, previously, were pledged to the candidate who had won their respective state’s primary or caucus election) are “released,” and are able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of balloting. It is hoped that this ‘freedom’ will result in a re-vote resulting in a clear majority of delegates for one candidate.

Usually by this time in the election cycle, a clear frontrunner has emerged.  But in 2012 this has not happened.  Mitt Romney was presumed to be he frontrunner, but he just can’t seem to rise any higher than the mid-20s in the polls.  A whole host of candidates have filled the role as the “anti-Romney candidate”, but each has faded.  First it was Michele Bachmann, then it was Rick Perry, then it was Herman Cain and now it is Newt Gingrich.

For a while it looked like Newt Gingrich was going to become the clear frontrunner, but at this point he is clearly fading.

The conservative backlash against Newt Gingrich has been enormous.  Glenn Beck can’t stand him.  Rush Limbaugh has come out against him.  And now conservative commentators all over the nation have jumped on the anti-Newt bandwagon.  The following comes from a recent article in the Washington Post….

As Andrew Sullivan pointed out today, you’re already seeing the anti-Gingrich mobilization among conservative thought leaders: Here’s George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Tom Coburn and Ann Coulter, just for starters. There’s this Politico story about all the Washington Republicans who hate Gingrich.

So what we have is a situation where there are 7 candidates and none of them can seem to break out in the polls.

There are three candidates that are pretty much guaranteed to go all the way – Gingrich, Romney and Ron Paul.

The rest seem fairly likely to stay in it until at least Super Tuesday.  Michele Bachmann is rising in most polls, Rick Perry seems to be bouncing back a bit, Rick Santorum is gaining a significant amount of traction in Iowa and Jon Huntsman is seeing his numbers move up in New Hampshire.

Sure, one or two might drop out in January, but the field would still be very muddied even if that happens.

In addition, a big factor in candidates wanting to stay in longer this year is the fact that proportional representation will now be used in all the early Republican primaries.

In the past, “winner take all” rules made it very easy for a frontrunner to lock up the nomination very, very early.  But now the rules have changed.  Delegates in the early states will be distributed among all the candidates.  This is going to extend the nomination fight and it is going to give weaker candidates an incentive to stay in and rack up delegates.  Those delegates may not win them the nomination, but it will give them leverage.  And in politics, leverage means a whole lot.

A recent article posted on Real Clear Politics described the rule changes that have been implemented by the Republican Party….

Basically, the Republican National Committee looked enviously at the lengthy Democratic primary from 2008 — which strengthened the Democrats by forcing candidates to conduct registration drives and set up infrastructure in all 50 states — and decided that a longer primary system would benefit the GOP as well.

So, it decided to require primaries and caucuses held prior to April 1 to allocate delegates through a proportional representation system. To greatly oversimplify, a candidate who receives at least 25 percent of the vote in any given state will receive that same percentage of the delegates (some states have a 20 percent viability threshold, and some states will have “mini-races” in each congressional district). A total of 1,277 delegates will be awarded prior to April 1, so it is nearly impossible for a candidate to rack up the 1,145 delegates needed to win the nomination outright by the end of March.

Proportional representation is the key to a brokered convention.  In the past, if someone won a state with 30 percent of the vote, they would get all the delegates.  Now a candidate with 30 percent of the vote will only get about 30 percent of the delegates in the early states.

Plus there is the Ron Paul factor.

Even if Ron Paul does not do well in the early states, he is going to stay in the race for the long haul.  His supporters are the most committed and he has shown that he can continue to raise money no matter where his poll numbers are at.

And at this point he has raised a ton of cash.  For the quarter ending September 30th, Ron Paul raised more than $12 million.

But the Republican establishment would do just about anything to keep him from winning.  The odds of him becoming the Republican nominee are not real great.

But it is very realistic to think that Ron Paul could be sitting there with 20 or 25 percent of the delegates by the time the convention rolls around.  If two other candidates such as Gingrich and Romney counterbalance one another the entire time, there is a real good chance that neither one of them will have accumulated 50 percent of the delegates by the convention.

Plus, remember, there will be other candidates sitting out there with their own chunks of delegates.

In addition, the growing dissatisfaction with the Republican field is making it much more likely that we could see a late entrant into the field.  Late entrants would not be on any of the early ballots, but they could get on lots of ballots in April, May, and June.

In such a scenario, the late entrant would have a very hard time locking up the nomination by convention time, but it would help to ensure that nobody else locked it up either.

In fact, there are rumors that some in the Republican establishment are already pushing for a late entrant or two to enter the race.  The following comes from a recent Wall Street Journal article….

Efforts are underway by some wealthy Republican donors and a group of conservative leaders to investigate whether a new Republican candidate could still get into the presidential race. The talk is still preliminary and somewhat wishful, but it reflects dissatisfaction with the two leading candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

Conservative leaders are looking into whether it is feasible for a dark horse to get on the ballot in select states. The deadline to qualifying for the ballot has passed in Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, and New Hampshire. But a candidate could still get on the ballot in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas. At the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, voters write in their choice, so there is no formal filing deadline.

The chatter about potential new entrants include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, businessman Donald Trump, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

The truth is that a late entrant that gets into the race on February 1st could still potentially compete for more than 50 percent of all the delegates.

A brokered convention would be really strange, but this is the way that it was always done in the old days.

As William Kristol recently pointed out, brokered conventions have nominated some pretty famous names in the past….

In 1860, the second convention of the Republican party met in Chicago and nominated, on the third ballot, after considerable deliberation, our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. In 1932, the Democrats convened in Chicago and nominated on the fourth ballot—after a few days in which the balloting was suspended for deliberation—Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So yes, there is actually a very real possibility that Sarah Palin or Jeb Bush could win the Republican nomination in 2012.

It would be really weird, but stranger things have happened.

Hold on to your hats folks – this is going to be one wild election season.

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