I’ve been shocked at how twisted the reporting from some corners of the ‘conservative media’ has gotten over the possibility of a brokered convention. So let me set the record straight over what can and cannot happen.
We have some bleating over the non-existent risk of Romney supposedly entering the race, even ‘stealing’ the nomination, despite Romney being very clear and over the distortions around what would happen in a brokered convention.
“I can tell you this: I’m not a candidate. I’m not going to be a candidate. I am going to be endorsing one of the people who is running for president,” he said. “One of the four is going to be the Republican Party nominee. Three of the four are people I would endorse. But I’m not running and I’m not going to be running.” – Mitt Romney
Romney has it right. The nominee will be one of these 4 candidates – Trump, Cruz, Kasich or Rubio.
That’s IT. NOBODY ELSE. Any article, speculation, claim or assumption otherwise is utter nonsense.
There is no plan hatched for anyone else, and if there was, it would be a hopeless effort.
The RNC has reiterated that there is an 85% chance that we will not go into a convention. That’s sounds about right. If Ohio and Florida go Trump, then it’s a two man Trump vs Cruz race, and its an uphill battle for Cruz to win most remaining states. If one or both split to Kasich and Rubio, then the odds of brokered convention go up.
The most likely paths forward right now are:
1. Trump wins FL and OH and manages to best Cruz one-on-one sufficient to win the nomination before the convention.
2. Cruz continues to surge and beats Trump enough to win outright, either with or without any of OH or FL.
2b. Cruz may surge but still fall short, with both Trump and Cruz close to but not above the magic 1237 delegates.
3. Rubio and/or Kasich win their home states, stay in and rack up more delegates. Trump falls short of a delegate majority. The race goes to a brokered convention.
Cruz is not playing for #3 to happen, but #2. Rubio and Kasich are, unless they surge in improbable ways to get to their own majority, are hanging on to scenario #3.
What would happen in a brokered convention will be dictated by two things: 1. The rules. 2. The delegates.
The rules limit who can be nominated and how delegates must vote; one rule says a candidate must get a majority of delegates in 8 states to be nominated. The rules prevent any non-candidate and anyone who has not gotten primary wins from being nominated. Thus far Cruz has gotten 2 such states (Kansas and Texas), and even Trump has not met this bar yet. It’s possible that this rule might be changed or relaxed, but loosening up the rule in any significant way would raise the very hackles about Romney and ‘establishment stealing’ that it would be very hard to do it quietly.
Consider if there are Cruz, Trump or Rubio supporters on that committee. Why would they open it up to allow anyone beyond their favored candidate? Why would they change rules to let a Paul Ryan or some other player to swoop in? They wouldn’t. We may yet have a bizarre scenario where no candidate gets a majority of the delegates out of 8 states but even then, what would the rule change be? It could be a simple change to be to get the largest plurality rather than a majority of the delegates from 8 states, ie ‘winning 8 states’. There will be no rule changes that allow candidates other than the four remaining to be nominated.
The rules are tough and it is quite possible that under current rules, Trump might be the only candidate nominatable under the rules. So one can imagine the Trump camp pulling a ‘dirty trick’ of keeping this rule to prevent an open convention and nomination of other candidates.
But what if they did open up the nominations? This is where fantasies of Romney will burst. On the first ballot, 90% of delegates are pledged to a candidate. They could attempt to vote otherwise, but that action would be out of order. The candidates with the most votes will be Assuming the rest of the race is like its been so far (big assumption), Trump will have 45% of delegates, Cruz another 40%. So 85% of pledged delegates are shared by Cruz and Trump. The same reason that it’s unlikely to open up the rules for non-candidates, is the reason any non-candidates would go nowhere even if rules were changed.
Now, if the race changes and Rubio is 2nd in the delegate count and not Cruz, then a different calculation, but the same concept: Trump and 2nd runner up will have over 80% of delegates. Picking anyone other than 1 of those two candidates would ignore the will and dictates of those pledged delegates. In some cases (like Virginia), those delegates are pledged beyond the 1st vote, and in other cases the delegate has been handpicked (eg in Illinois) to represent the candidate. After no candidate gets 50% on the first ballot, the jockeying begins to move votes. The top candidates closest to 50% will try to induce defections to win. Those who genuinely support the candidate they pledged to will not waver. But others may be pledged to one candidate and support another.
As the process plays out, the only reason there might be someone other than the top two vote getters is if there is a deadlock and those two are both not acceptable to a majority of delegates. This may be true of Trump, but is not true of Rubio or Cruz. Both of the latter would have broad acceptance. In particular, just as Cruz wins caucus elections (having won Iowa, Maine, Alaska and Kansas) and straw poll after straw poll, so too does he do well with convention delegates. Delegates who like Rubio and Cruz but not Trump will likely gravitate to whomever of Cruz or Rubio has the most delegates.
A brokered convention will be decided by delegates. Delegates to the national convention include many party functionaries, but are mostly grassroots, and mostly conservative. That is, not the ‘establishment’ or ‘donor class’ but the grassroots. Now, would anyone stop supporting a guy with 40% and decide to vote for someone with 0% support? No, especially if the alternative is someone worse. Hence, if there is a situation where Cruz had 40% of delegates, he might form a Cruz/Rubio ticket and get over 1237 by getting Rubio delegates on his side. Trump might try the same with Kasich.
The obvious conclusion: If Cruz goes into the convention with at least 40% of the convention delegates, and is bested only by Trump and neither is above 50%, then Cruz has the best chance of being the nominee.
The nominee will be one of Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich. We will probably know for certain who the nominee is by June. If not, the brokered convention will be just an extension of the 50 prior primaries – a final ‘tiebreaker’ caucus of 2400 delegates. Only the top two candidates in delegate count should and would be considered.
A brokered convention is not a ‘trick’, but is the logical outcome of a state-based primary process that doesn’t yield a conclusive result. It’s akin to a primary where there is a runoff after multiple candidates share support and none gets a majority. The primary decided Cruz should be familiar with this, having beaten David Dewhurst in a runoff. Just as Cruz was in 2nd place in the first round but won the runoff, so too here, Cruz has an opportunity to win the nomination in a brokered convention.