When Will They Make An End?

Rich Galen

2/10/2012 5:05:00 PM - Rich Galen

In the 1965 film "The Agony and the Ecstasy" Michelangelo (played by Charlton Heston) is taking his sweet time painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II (played by Rex Harrison) loses his patience and asks, "When will you make an end?"

To which Michelangelo responds, "When I am finished."

That's pretty much the status of the GOP primary campaign. Washington-based reporters (now faced with no election activity until February 28 when Arizona and Michigan have their primaries) are expending a great deal of energy asking each other "When will they make an end?"

It is useful to remember that in 2008 Barack Obama didn't sew up the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton until June. JUNE!

This is the second week in February.

Even on the Republican side, when John McCain essentially was declared the victor after the Florida primary on January 29, 2008 the campaign went on and both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee won states post-Florida.

Here's who won what after Florida:

Romney wins:


Maine

Alaska

Colorado

Massachusetts

Minnesota

North Dakota

Huckabee wins:


Alabama

Arkansas

Georgia

Tennessee

West Virginia

Kansas

Because the Washington press corps has no primaries, caucuses, nor debates to write about this week, they have turned their attention to the quadrennial question: Will there be a brokered convention?

I know you already know this but the last "brokered" convention, i.e. a convention in which it took more than one ballot to choose a nominee was the 1952 Democratic Convention which chose Adlai Stevenson on the third ballot.

That was 60 years ago.

The granddaddy of 20th century brokered conventions was the 1924 Democratic convention which pitted the Wets (anti-Prohibition) v the Drys (Pro-Prohibition) in which Alfred E. Smith and William G. McAdoo battled through 102 ballots before an exhausted convention turned to John W. Davis as its nominee on the 103rd.

Stevenson was beaten by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Davis was soundly defeated by the high-energy Republican candidate, Calvin Coolidge, telling us that … well, telling us nothing about brokered conventions because in 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated on the 4th ballot in Chicago and went on to win election that year (against Herbert Hoover), in 1936 (against Alf Landon), in 1940 (against Wendell Willkie), and in 1944 (against Thomas Dewey).

I talked to a reporter yesterday about the prospects of a brokered convention in Tampa. I said I didn't think that was going to happen because either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum would have either secured the nomination or would be close to the required 1,144 delegates by the time the primary season ends in June.

If either of them is close, then I believe two of the other three, which would include Ron Paul, would release their delegates to the presumptive winner thus avoiding a brokered convention. Why? Because fighting all the way to Tampa in late August would mean the eventual nominee would have only about 10 weeks to mount a general election campaign against President Barack Obama.

If the non-likely candidates get in behind the presumptive winner in June, the campaign against Obama starts at that point giving the GOP nominee an additional 60 days to focus his attention on the President instead of the other Republican candidates.

I suspect that if the leader in the clubhouse at the end of June is Santorum, Gingrich will join Romney and Paul in supporting him. If the leader is Romney, it would not surprise me if Gingrich withheld his support because he feels he has been personally offended by Romney.

Reporters love to play the "what if" game. The reporter I was talking to "what if-ed" me to the point where I said, "Look, an asteroid could fall on our heads during this phone call; but we would look pretty silly running to the basement of our buildings to avoid it, right?"

In the end, I still think Romney is the best bet to win this thing, but given what happened Tuesday night it might take the support of Ron Paul and/or Rick Santorum to put him over the top. That means brokering a deal - but it will be done prior to Republicans in funny hats gathering in Tampa on August 27.

Romney is a deal-maker. That's how he made his money.

If it comes down to making deal with Santorum and Paul, I have no doubt Romney will be able to get it done well before August.