CHICAGO — For the first time in a generation, Republicans are preparing for the possibility that their presidential nomination could be decided at their national convention rather than on the campaign trail, a prospect that would upend one of the rituals of modern politics.Read the rest here.
The race remains Mitt Romney’s to lose, and if he continues to accumulate delegates at a steady clip starting with contests in Puerto Rico on Sunday and Illinois on Tuesday, he can still amass the 1,144 necessary to secure the nomination before the last primary, in Utah on June 26.
But as he struggles to win the hearts of conservative voters and hold off a challenge from Rick Santorum, party leaders, activists and the campaigns are for the first time taking seriously the possibility that neither he nor anyone else will get to that total.
In that case, the nomination would be decided by the more than 2,200 delegates — from obscure local officials and activists to national figures — who will attend the party’s convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.
They would embark on an unscripted, contentious and televised drama that has not played out in 36 years, a period in which both major party conventions have become slickly produced and highly choreographed pep rallies kicking off the general election campaign.
With that in mind, campaign and party lawyers are dusting off their party rule books, running through decades-old procedural arcana and studying the most recent convention-floor fight, between Ronald Reagan and President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. Republican officials also are bracing for the possibility of a prenomination clash between the party’s establishment and members of the Tea Party movement, many of whom may be attending their first national convention.
1976 was technically not a brokered convention since President Ford won the nomination on the first ballot. But it was messy. Going into it, no one knew with certainty how it was going to turn out. Reading between the lines you can tell two things though. Most establishment Republicans are terrified of the prospect of an unscripted convention where anything could happen. And secondly most reporters are probably lighting candles in church in prayerful supplication for an open convention. The bloody floor fights, wheeling and dealing for delegate votes and campaign managers sniffing the winds, trying to guess which way the various votes are going to go would make for terrific political theater. I can just imagine gaggles of reporters trying to figure out which hotel rooms were being used for the famous back room dealing by following the trail of cigar smoke and room service with bottles of whiskey.
But alas I still think it is petty unlikely. There are so many super delegates controlled by the party establishment that Romney would have to stumble badly to blow this. So I'd hold off on the cigars and booze for now.