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Brokered Convention

There is a lot of talk right now about the possibility of the Republicans having a brokered convention.  The thinking is that none of the current candidates will have enough delegates to win the nomination outright, so there will be backroom deals and, indeed, brokering to help one candidate get to 51%.

This possibility seems to have so many people in and around the GOP petrified.  The thinking is:

  • The party will look fractured.
  • The candidate will look weak.
  • The Democrats will get to campaign for their candidate for months, while…
  • The Republicans will not.
  • The Republicans will only have a few months to put together and execute a campaign.

Whatever you think  of the Republicans – and I try not to – I believe this thinking is in error.  I believe that, from a PR perspective, a brokered convention is the best thing they could hope for.  At this point in the primary process, the nominee is usually already a given, therefore people tend to tune out from now until the convention.  However, if the mystery can be maintained until summer, it gives the story wings, and both the press and the voting public will stay focused on it.

The stories that usually come out from this point forward are usually negative stories about the nominee, offered up on a platter from the opposition party.  Without a fixed target, in this case, the Democrats will be hard-pressed to attack any given candidate.  If they assume that Romney will be the eventual nominee in any case and do start attacking him, they could actually bring about the brokered convention, by weakening Romney prematurely.  The convention might then nominate a candidate who is comparatively strong, because he has not been the recipient of months of attack journalism.

Anyhow, if the Republicans go into the convention without a nominee, people will actually watch it.  No, not everybody, but far more people than the usual political junkies who watch that sort of thing.  It should, for one week, be at least as popular as American Idol, even with far less talent.  The resulting nominee should, therefore, have a much stronger start than otherwise and, even if the campaign is not as well organized and choreographed as it should be, it should still be well received.

And if the resulting nominee is not one of the currently surviving candidates, he should do even better, because there will not have been enough time for opposition mud-raking.  Yes, there is a chance that a dark-horse nominee, not having been vetted by months of the primary process, might have a skeleton or two in his closet that could lose him the race.  On the other hand, such a nominee will almost certainly please the Republican base far more than the current crop, giving them far more energy and enthusiasm.

Which the Republicans want to avoid at any costs.

Um, no, not the Republican base.  I mean the Republican establishment.  Both parties exist, these days, to funnel money to their selected donors and supporters.  Therefore, establishment candidates, those that essentially promise not to rock the boat and allow that money to keep flowing, will always get the support of party leaders – quietly, behind doors – even while their party’s base voters writhe with contempt.

Which explains this primary season to a tee.  None of the GOP base factions, either social conservatives or fiscal conservatives, want Romney.  Whenever a possible alternative raises its head, the base flocks to him.  But the establishment wants Romney and they manage to get the alternative quashed (which is not to say they did not deserve to be, in some cases).  So the race has gone, like a seesaw, with Romney up and down, alternating with the flavor of the week.

Bill Clinton did not really expect to be nominated in 1992, much less be elected president – he was laying the groundwork for 1996.  But the major name players in the party at the time (read: Cuomo) believed that George Bush was unbeatable after the Gulf War.  So, Clinton got the nomination, Bush imploded (Yes! New taxes!), and Perot came in to finish the job.

My point being, the unexpected does happen, often to the chagrin of party leaders.  If the convention is brokered and they end up nominating a Republican heavyweight (insert Chris Christie joke here) that really pleases the party base, Mr. Obama would have a very difficult fight on his hands and we could have a very interesting four years.

Hey!  Interesting could be good.  You never know.


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