The New Republic (of all places) has an interesting piece about the prospects of a brokered GOP convention next year. John Judis’ assessment is accurate in that there is a pretty good chance that given the candidates involved and the way the schedule is broken out.
But unlike Judis, I am not at all convinced that this is a bad thing.
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One of the perceived problems with a brokered convention is that all hell will break loose on the floor of the convention. As Judis notes:
That can make for very exciting television, but could pose difficulties for a party that wants to use its convention to showcase its nominee. A protracted nomination battle could also sow discord within the party itself and squander funds that the candidates might want to use later.
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Well, Judis is partially true in that the parties do prefer to use the convention to showcase their Presidential nominee. But do the conventions actually do this is a useful manner? Do swing voters watch the conventions now? Do any voters watch the conventions now? As it sits, the networks show three-and-a-half days of an long, overly-scripted infomercial before getting to the main event, the candidate acceptance speech, on Thursday night. Even the Vice-Presidential nominee is now selected and announced long before hitting the convention floor.
A brokered convention is different. If three (or more) major candidates go to Minnesota with a good chance to win, it is going to be must-see TV. Each campaign will continue jockeying for position right up until (and likely well after) the first ballot. Campaigns will begin trying to feel each other out, feel the delegates out, and settle in for the next ballot.
And once the first ballot is done, that’s when things truly can get wild. Many states require their delegates to be committed to their pledged candidate for a certain number of ballots. Many are only required to stay faithful on the first few ballots. Once those pledged delegates are basically released, anything can happen. And that includes candidates who aren’t even in the race when the convention starts. You could see anybody jump into the race at that point.
Think about this scenario. Newt Gingrich could (theoretically) skip the primaries and hope for a brokered convention. If he thinks none of the delegates can get to 1,259 delegates by the start of the convention, why not wait and see what happens and maybe have the chance to ride in to save the day?
Television aside, this also makes for good political theater and a great opportunity for the party. In most conventions, the platform and a lot of the convention logistics are decided by the campaign of the presumed nominee. That means only the views and positions of the nominee are going to be showcased during the convention, and that does not always portray the view of a majority of the party on any particular issue. A brokered convention will give all of the remaining candidates an opportunity to address the convention and to have their surrogates address the convention. It will provide an unprecedented opportunity for all factions within the Republican Party to have their views heard and taken seriously on a national stage.
A lot of people think a brokered convention is a disaster. I just happen to think it’s an opportunity.