As the Republican presidential primary drags on, 27 debates later, with no candidate yet obtaining 50% of the delegates, speculation is increasing that the nominee may end up being selected in a brokered convention. If none of the candidates win a minimum of 1,144 delegates in the primaries and caucuses, then the Republican convention becomes a brokered convention where the nominee is chosen by freewheeling delegates. Delegates would be permitted to change their votes at the convention and support anyone, even new candidates. Ballot contests are held until one candidate achieves a majority of delegate votes.
The three candidates left in the race besides Mitt Romney are hoping for a brokered convention since it is practically impossible now for them to get enough delegates. Rick Santorum, in second place after Romney, needs 70% of the remaining delegates to win. As frontrunner, Romney opposes a brokered convention, needing only half of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.
There are plenty of problems with a brokered convention. It leaves Republican candidates taking jabs at each other instead of Obama for a much longer period, spending most of their money in the primary instead of against Obama. The convention begins August 27. The last primary this year is Utah’s on June 26. By the end of August, there will be only a couple of months left for the race against Obama. Republican candidates have been taking shots at each other since the beginning of last summer and a brokered convention means that infighting drags out for well over a year. Hugh Hewitt observed that a new candidate who has not participated in the primary yet may find it difficult to get into the national fundraising game this late against Obama.
The most troubling part about a brokered convention is it leaves the nominating process to be decided by backroom dealing. Instead of a mostly democratic process of electing the nominee, the nominee would be chosen by political hacks.
The last Republican brokered convention did not fare so well for the GOP. The last GOP brokered convention took place in 1948, when Thomas Dewey was selected, a weak dark horse candidate who went on to lose the general election to Democrat Harry Truman. The Democrats had more luck with a brokered convention in 1932, nominating Franklin D. Roosevelt, who went on to become president. But the mood was right to propel a dark horse candidate; the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. The country’s current mood, while dismal, is not quite desperate enough to throw everything out that radically and start again.