Two months and 28 states after the Iowa caucus, the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee goes on. With four candidates still in the race, and all insisting they won't give up, the idea of a brokered convention is continuing to circulate, thrilling political junkies and garnering more mixed reactions from the GOP.
Brokered conventions occur when a party enters its national convention with no candidate having enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination, and then fails to nominate one on its first ballot. As voting continues, some delegates, depending on their state rules, are allowed to switch their votes, setting off rounds of bargaining until one of the candidates -- or even someone entirely new -- is chosen.
The buzz this year isn't unique. Brokered conventions are rare in modern electoral history (although predictions of them are not, appearing as recently as 2008.) But before the advent of the primary election system, they were commonplace.
In 1924, the Democratic convention, split over whether to condemn the Ku Klux Klan, stretched on for three weeks before finally nominating an obscure dark horse, John Davis.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term as president was the product of a brokered convention in 1932. His opponent, John Nance Garner, agreed to release his delegates on the fourth ballot only after being promised the vice presidency.
Roosevelt was the last candidate to emerge from a brokered convention and win the presidency. The last truly brokered conventions came in 1948 for the Republicans, who nominated Thomas Dewey, and in 1952 for the Democrats, who picked Adlai Stevenson.
Former Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.) recalled the commotion of the 1952 convention, writing in a column, "That hot July evening at the Chicago convention the wit, style, voice and ideas enunciated by Stevenson electrified the delegates as well as millions of Americans listening and watching across the country. For the last time in American political history, a nominating convention became wide open, brokered, and Adlai Stevenson, unable to suppress the excitement and enthusiasm, was nominated for president on the third ballot."
Since then, there have been several close calls, and numerous predictions of brokered conventions that didn't come to pass. In 1976, incumbent President Gerald Ford fought Ronald Reagan up to the Republican convention that August before barely clinching the nomination on the first ballot.
The phrase "brokered convention" evokes an image of party establishment figures conferring in smoke-filled rooms -- one that might not accurately describe the general confusion of a 2012 RNC sans nominee.
"Either Romney's going to win it outright, or everything's going to be chaos," Newt Gingrich, who would prefer the latter option, told Fox Radio host Brian Kilmeade on Monday.
Conservative commentator Peggy Noonan agreed, suggesting a better term might be contested convention.
Whatever the terminology, ABC's John Barron envisioned what such a convention would look like in the digital age, writing, "A modern brokered convention is probably going to be smoke-free and involve a lot of hushed phone calls and texting on BlackBerrys, but the very uncertainty of it would be wonderful theatre (and scare the bejeezus out of the party establishment)."
Check out Republican reactions to a possible brokered convention:
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who helped craft the current GOP primary map, is considered by have some to have shaped this year's long slog of a Republican race. Steele doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing. In January, he predicted a "50-50" chance of an open convention, and he more recently told Mother Jones magazine, "I wanted a brokered convention." Steele explained that comment to The Huffington Post, saying, "We effectively lengthened the process and allowed for more proportional voting which had nothing to do with who runs or how they would run their campaign. And on that point we could not predict this outcome."
Sarah Parlin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, sees a potential opening if this year's race continues until the convention. "We could be looking at a brokered convention," she told Fox Business Network. "Months from now, if that's the case, all bets are off as to who it will be, willing to offer up themselves up in their name in service to their country. I would do whatever I could to help." Palin also told CNN that "anything is possible."
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he doubted a brokered convention would happen, but that if it did, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) would benefit. "He's the only one who could make it happen," DeMint said of Daniels. But he said that, barring a last-minute political scandal involving the GOP frontrunner, the nomination would likely be clinched before August. "I don't think it's very likely," DeMint told a Republican audience in February.
"The odds are greater that there's life on Pluto than that the GOP has a brokered convention," Republican strategist Karl Rove wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal. "And while there's a better chance of a contested convention, it's still highly unlikely."
Despite his endorsement of Mitt Romney, Donald Trump predicted that the candidate could have difficulty winning the GOP nomination. "We'll have to see what happens. I think it's going to be a long process, and it could even go to the convention, which is shocking," Trump said in an interview with Fox News' "Fox and Friends."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said a contested convention could happen, but wasn't likely. "Sure, that's a possibility," Christie said on CBS. "I still don't think it's a likelihood, though."
The editor of The Weekly Standard said on Fox News that the odds of a brokered convention are slim. "Where we are is that one of two people is going to be the Republican nominee," Kristol said. "With the possible, you know, 3-percent possibility of a brokered convention-type situation."
Political analyst Kermit the Frog originally declined to take a position on the issue. But he admitted he thought a brokered convention was likely. "The fact is, Stephen, that this race is far from over," he told Stephen Colbert. "You know, we haven't even hit Romney's strongholds of New York and California yet. And the closer Mitt gets to that magical number of 1,144 delegates, well, the more leverage he has at a hypothetical brokered convention. However! However, you know, if rumors of a Santorum/Gingrich superticket prove true, well, we're in for a hot time in Tampa."
Mitt Romney said he worries that a brokered convention could cost Republicans the 2012 election. "We sure as heck are not going to go to a convention, all the way to the end of August, to select a nominee and have campaign working during a convention," he told Fox News. "Why, can you imagine anything that would be a bigger gift to Barack Obama than us not having a nominee until the end of August? That is just not going to happen."
Newt Gingrich has promised that he'll keep campaigning until the Republican convention. Speaking to Fox News, he envisioned what a brokered convention might look like in August. "My point is one of two things is going to happen," he told Greta van Susteren. "Either somebody will get a long winning streak, and Gov. Romney is probably best positioned just by sheer money to do that, but he keeps bouncing into ceilings where people reject him. "Or we're going to have a conversation about who could win, and I think people generally agree I could debate Obama better than anybody else and have a better chance, in that sense, of defeating Obama. Or we're going to get to a brokered convention and we're all going to be in a room."
Rick Santorum predicted that he could force Mitt Romney into a brokered convention -- and win. "I think you've been listening to math class and delegate math class instead of looking at the reality of the situation," he said during a campaign stop in March. "The reality of the situation is that it's going to be very difficult for anyone to get to the number of delegates that is necessary to win with the majority at the convention."
Ron Paul has yet to win a state, but his campaign team says a convention fight could be his bet bet. "A brokered convention is the most favorable situation for Ron winning the nomination," said Paul's spokesman, Jesse Benton . Benton said that plan was "not far-fetched at all."
Speaking before the Michigan primary, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) predicted that a loss for Romney could lead to "whispering" about other candidates. "I have no inside knowledge, just whispering and mumbling ... among top Republicans who are concerned that Gov. Romney has not been able to break loose," King told CNN.
Speaking to CNBC in January, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) predicted a brokered convention. "But what is going to happen as I see this thing is, you're just not going to have a winner in this primary process. I'm looking for a brokered convention," he said.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in March that he didn't think the nomination process would go on too long. "We're not making plans for a brokered convention," he told Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation."
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