Is the Republican Party heading to a brokered convention? Once upon a time, it was considered almost a cliche that in a tough primary fight someone would say that their party was heading to a brokered convention, even though they have been rare. But now speculation about one on the GOP side is increasing, witness the number of news articles blossoming on the subject and the Republican bigwigs talking about it.
The increased talk is illustrative of what is now an indisputable fact: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been one of the most unloved and weakest front runners the party has ever had. Afiter a long parade of Anti-Romney candidates that quickly attracted — and lost — conservative support, the new and most likely final Anti-Romney is former Senator Rick Santorum. And if Romney loses the primary in his former home state of Michigan, look for talk about a broker convention to increase.
The Daily Beast’s John Avlon has a must-read post on The Daily Beast about the issue. Here’s the final part of his required reading piece:
Play around with the CNN delegate calculator and you can see that even if Romney were to win every contest going forward with 100 percent of the delegates (that’s called kickin’ it North Korea-style) he still wouldn’t reach 1,144 until April 3. Under a similar extreme scenario, it would take Rick Santorum until April 23. Here’s the real kicker: If Romney and Santorum were to split the delegates going forward and each were to carry five of the 10 all-or-nothing contests, neither candidate would win enough delegates to clinch the nomination.
Add to that mix the fact that Ron Paul’s got very little reason to not go all the way to Tampa collecting delegates along the way—and Newt Gingrich has sworn less convincingly to do the same—and the math gets even more daunting for Team Mitt.
They have one ace up their sleeve—Utah. It’s currently scheduled last in the primary calendar, on June 26, with 40 delegates; winner-take-all in a state that is famously Mormon-dominated. It could serve as a backstop for Mitt, bringing him over the top at the last possible moment.
But if no candidate hits 1,144 by the end of the process, buy some tickets and head to Tampa, because this is going to be one wild and weird party convention. Remember, all delegates are released after the first ballot. The Ron Paul-ites have been fantasizing about this scenario, and Sarah Palin has started to talk in circles about how she just might be available to ‘help’ in such an eventuality.
America hasn’t seen a true brokered convention since 1952, when Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson emerged with the Democratic nomination despite Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver winning more delegates. One upside: in the age of social media, we’d have more access to what goes on in smoke-filled backrooms than ever before.
The accuracy of Avalon’s post is underscored by this new report by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who reports and an unnamed Senator told him that if Romney loses Michigan the party has to find a new candidate.
A prominent Republican senator just told me that if Romney can’t win in Michigan, the Republican Party needs to go back to the drawing board and convince somebody new to get into the race.
“If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate,” said the senator, who has not endorsed anyone and requested anonymity.
The senator believes Romney will ultimately win in Michigan but says he will publicly call for the party to find a new candidate if he does not.
“We’d get killed,” the senator said if Romney manages to win the nomination after he failed to win the state in which he grew up.
“He’d be too damaged,” he said. “If he can’t even win in Michigan, where his family is from, where he grew up.”
What about Rick Santorum?
“He’d lose 35 states,” the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich.
And when Karl asks the Senator who would be the Romney replacement as front runner, the Senator says Jeb Bush.
I suspect as George HW Bush might say, “Not gonna happen.”
The reason: it is still a bit too early for Jeb Bush to jump into the Presidential fray given his last name. Republicans may idolize him but he still has to put some time distance between a President run and the time when you-know-who was President (and I don’t mean Poppy Bush). Plus, if the economy is even slightly on the upswing a Republican Presidential winner will be less of a sure thing. Plus, whoever jumps into the fray at the last minute will have to build an organization in record time, raise money in record time — and will likely under extremely intense media scrutiny due to emerging at such a late date.
Most of the more popular “mainstream” GOPers who are sitting it out have probably concluded: this isn’t the year to start so late.
On the other hand, Sarah Palin has suggested that she might be available…
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.