Sunday, January 20, 2008

Coming Soon... cigar smoke and back room deals?

With McCain's win in South Carolina and Romney's in Nevada the race for the GOP nomination continues to get more and more interesting. I am starting to think there is a chance... a small one but it's there... that we could witness something this summer not seen in a generation. A political convention where the presidential nominee is not clearly known before the convention meets. For decades now conventions have been little more than tightly scripted political infomercials for the predetermined candidates of each party.

However even if McCain wins in Florida on the 29th of Jan, twenty one(!) states will be voting a mere week after that with some of the biggest states among them. It is highly unlikely that any of the four credible Republican candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee) will bow out before super Tuesday. None of them will have the time or money to effectively campaign in more than a few of the states voting on February 5th. All of them have a chance to win at least one state and potentially more on that day. None have the level of support likely to give them a clear victory. What this means is that there is a small but growing possibility the Republican convention could convene with no candidate holding enough delegates to secure the nomination.

This would translate into the nightmare of any modern political party and the dream come true of political talking heads, reporters and junkies (qui moi?)... an open or brokered convention. My memory is not perfect but I think one might have to go all the way back to 1952 for the last time the GOP held a convention where the nominee was not preordained (Eisenhower stunned the party establishment who had been banking on Bob Taft). Back in the day delegates were often beholden to party bosses who traded (or just plain sold) votes in the famous smoke filled back rooms.

Modern day anti-smoking laws may put a damper on reviving that aspect of political tradition but if four (five if you count Ron Paul) candidates show up in Minneapolis-St. Paul with no one holding enough delegates to secure the nomination we could see some good old fashioned wheeling and dealing on the convention floor or in not so smoky back rooms. In fact this might be more fun to watch than baseball. Imagine what promises might be extracted by delegate managers or lesser candidates with only a couple of states worth of delegates in exchange for their votes. The lesser candidates who know they have little hope of getting the nomination could play king makers. Another possibility would be that if deals are not made quickly to select a nominee delegates might revolt and pick their own favorite man (or woman). They would not in theory be restricted to declared candidates. They could draft one of their choice. In fact such a convention could produce almost any result.

All of which is terrifying to modern political managers. This is doubly so in the Republican Party, which has a not entirely undeserved reputation for being neurotic about order and party discipline. The mere thought of this potentially once in a lifetime spectacle is making my political mouth water. Whatever happens this has already turned into the most interesting political season since 1980.

Stay tuned.

P.S. One year from today we will have a new president. I for one am more than ready for this change in administration.

1 comment:

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