Mitt Romney told Fox News after Rick Santorum’s victories in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, “We’re not going to go to a brokered convention.”
But those who put their money where their mouth is, buying contracts on the Intrade.com online prediction market, assess the picture much differently from Romney. The latest Intrade.com probability that the Republican nominee will be selected in a brokered convention is 21.5 percent. This same probability stood at 5 percent a month and a half ago.
Ed Rollins, veteran presidential campaign manager and consultant, who ran President Reagan’s landslide 1984 victory, wrote after Alabama and Mississippi, “It’s now clear, it’s a fight all the way…We haven’t picked half the delegates yet and there is no inevitable winner.”
It’s significant that there is so much talk about a brokered convention when the current primary system is designed to avoid exactly that and when it hasn’t occurred in years.
Perhaps the question worth re-asking is why Romney, well into his second presidential campaign, with financial resources many orders of magnitude greater than either of his opponents, remains so weak.
Three major trends are worth noting, all of which are unflattering to the Romney candidacy.
One, within the Republican Party itself, the party has become more conservative over the last decade.
In a Gallup poll in 2000, 62 percent of Republicans self identified as conservative. By 2011, this was up to 71 percent.
So, in his own party, Romney’s tepid conservative credentials hurt him.
Despite this, what seems to be sustaining his candidacy, beyond his prodigious financial resources, is a notion that a more moderate Republican candidate will do better in the general election against Barack Obama.
But this is also a dubious assumption considering two other trends.
First, independent voters have also become more conservative over the last decade. In 2000, 29 percent of independents self identified as conservative. By 2011, this was up to 35 percent.
Second, the number of voters identifying as independent is now at an all time high of 40 percent.
Gallup explains this surge in growth in independents as “record levels of distrust in government” and “unfavorable views of both parties.”
So over the last decade, voters overall have become more conservative and more sensitized to looking for authenticity in a candidate.
Romney comes up short on both counts. His conservative credentials are easily questioned.