Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MY TURN: Brokered Convention?

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MY TURN: Brokered Convention?

Article excerpt

One of the hottest topics of conversation among political junkies this election season is the possibility of a "brokered convention" at the Republican National Convention later this summer. This discussion has recently heated up as Rick Santorum continues to surge in the polls and Mitt Romney shows no signs of gaining the momentum needed to seal the Republican nomination anytime soon. But what exactly is a brokered convention and is there really a chance that we might see one?

The first point to make here is that there is some confusion concerning the exact meaning of a brokered convention, and it appears that many people are using the term incorrectly. As Karl Rove recently reminded us in a column in the Wall Street Journal, a brokered convention refers to a situation where no candidate in the primary is able to secure a majority of delegates prior to the convention, and a new candidate emerges to challenge the existing candidates for the nomination by either entering the remaining primaries or entering the race at the convention. This is possible because according to party rules, most delegates at the convention are only obligated to vote for the winner from their state on the first ballot.

If no candidate receives a majority on that first vote, all delegates are free to vote for whomever they wish on succeeding ballots, including a candidate who has not run in the primaries.

Some of the possible candidates that have been speculated might emerge if a brokered convention were to occur include Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels or even Sarah Palin.

Like the brokered convention, a "contested convention" refers to a situation where none of the current candidates receives a majority of delegates prior to the convention, but there is no "white knight" that enters the picture to "save" the party. Rather, the delegates at the convention continue to vote until a winner eventually emerges.

Theoretically speaking, the voting could go on for a long time. Indeed, during the 1924 Democratic National Convention, a total of 103 ballots were cast until John W. Davis eventually emerged as the nominee. David lost to Calvin Coolidge on Election Day.

Although a brokered or contested convention was the norm before the widespread use of primary elections, we have seen a contested election much more recently than most people realize. The last time was 1976, when Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford fought for the nomination in Kansas City. Although Ford did not have a majority of delegates entering the convention, political maneuvering prior to the convention enabled him to win the nomination on the first ballot.

Most analysts believe that a brokered convention is very unlikely to occur. As Karl Rove recently claimed, "the odds are greater that there's life on Pluto than that the GOP will see a brokered convention. …

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