A perfect storm may be headed towards the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa Bay Florida. A combination of recent Republican Party rule changes combined with a stronger Ron Paul than 2008 may result in a brokered convention on August 27th 2012 to determine the Republican Party nominee for President. Let me start by saying this is unlikely, brokered conventions are often predicted early in the race but have not materialized since the modern primary system replaced a time when party leadership met in smoke filled backrooms to determine the nominee. However unlikely, I will lay out the case that it is a feasible outcome this election. I am not the first to suggest this. This article is heavily influenced by Brian Bolduc’s National Review article that came out 2 weeks ago. His original scenario has been modified to reflect the current state of the race.
The new rules were adopted by the Republican National Committee on August 6, 2010. Two rules may contribute to the perfect storm leading to a brokered convention.
The first of the new rules may contribute to a lesser degree and is as follows:
No primary, caucus, or convention to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to the first Tuesday in March in the year in which a national convention is held. Except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may begin their processes at any time on or after February 1 in the year in which a national convention is held.
The rule essentially says that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada may have their caucus or primary early, as tradition, but not before Feb. 1st. As you may have heard Iowa has already had it’s caucus and it is not yet February. A careful look at the Iowa GOP website’s Bullet-point guide to the Caucus will reveal some very careful wording as follows:
In most precincts, the Presidential Preference Poll is a simple, secret-ballot vote. Republican voters from the precinct are each given one ballot to write down their preference for the Republican presidential nominee.
Essentially, no state, including Iowa can vote to bind delegates prior to February 1st. The results of the Iowa caucus are nonbinding to the eventual Iowa National Delegates. I have a feeling that the 120K Iowans who met at their local church or school were not aware that they were participating in little more than a second Ames Straw Poll. Who was aware of this? The astute Ron Paul campaign who realized that there were two important votes on Tuesday.
First the “Preference Poll”, which the media will announce that the candidate with the most votes is the ‘winner’ of the Iowa Caucus. Second was the vote to send delegates from each precinct to the county convention. Few stick around for this vote, it is typically symbolic as the results of the caucus is usually binding, but not this year in Iowa. Ron Paul may not have had the plurality of ‘Preference Poll’ votes, but due to impressive caucus training, he may very well have had the most supporters stick around to become delegates to the county level, which in turn elect delegates to district, then state, and national conventions.
Now what does it mean to have a slate of Ron Paul supporting National Delegates from Iowa, probably not much. If another candidate gains the majority of delegates without Iowa’s as would happen in a typical race, the worst that could happen would be some rogue delegates changing their vote to Paul in a largely symbolic move, having no impact on the result of the race. But, if no candidate reaches 1144 delegates without Iowa’s 25 this could be a minor component to the perfect storm.
The new rule that could have the biggest impact on the race is as follows:
Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting held for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention which occurs prior to the first day of April in the year in which the national convention is held, shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.
In 2008 and prior, a vast majority of Republican Caucus and Primary contests were winner take all, that usually made for a relatively quick resolution to selecting a nominee. But in an apparent effort to have more fun, like the Democrats did in 2008, the Republican National Committee decided to require any state that holds their contest prior to April 1st to have proportional allocation of their delegates. That makes for a more prolonged race and may prove a huge factor in the perfect storm leading to a brokered convention.
Here is how it may feasibly turn out. This spreadsheet is again a modified version of one Brian Bolduc created and has been modified to reflect the current state of the race. One assumption made in the projection is that all delegates are bound, even though we know that is not the case in Iowa and a few other states. The number of rogue unbound delegates will likely be few to none and therefor will not be taken into account in this scenario.
After Iowa, Bachmann dropped out leaving her 1 Iowa delegate. All other candidates have determined that they will stay in the race at this time.
I predict a relatively poor showing by Huntsman in New Hampshire and he will drop out afterwords, lets give him 1 delegate from that.
Next is South Carolina where Rick Perry is hoping to make his stand, but he will fall to 4th place and drop out of the race with 7 delegates.
Gingrich’s speech following the Iowa Caucus has been interpreted by many to mean he hopes to make life difficult for Romney whom he blames for his fall from the top after an onslot of negative ads. I think he will stay in until Florida, spending every last cent of his campaign’s war chest on dragging down Romney (So much for Reagan’s 11th commandment that Gingrich was so fond of). Running low on money and realizing that he is hurting Santorum by splitting the anti-Romney vote, Gingrich drops out following Florida, resulting in 13 delegates.
Following Florida we now have a three way race between Romney, Santorum and Paul. Pundits will be predicting a quick resolution considering the fact that we are down to two candidates (Paul is invisible to the Media) after only one month and four contests. But…
Paul will do one of two things. He may stay in til the end. In 2008, although he had no chance of securing the nomination, Paul did not drop out until June, a full 4 months after third place Romney and 3 months after second place Huckabee. In 2008 Paul’s persistence didn’t matter much, he only picked up a few additional delegates. It did however serve as practice for 2012 and resulted in a grassroots campaign network in all 50 states that continues to this day. Unlike 2008, a persistent 2012 Paul could have an impact. First he is doing better than 08, but better doesn’t amount to winning in the traditional winner-takes-all system. But remember the rule change, Paul will continue siphoning 10-30% of each state’s delegates until proportional allocation ends on April 1st.
Oh, the other thing Paul may do, drop out and run third party. If you think this possible brokered convention scenario is scary for Republican’s, a third party Paul run would be devastating to their chances in November.
For the sake of this scenario I’ll give Paul 10% in Primaries, 20% in Caucuses, where his strong organization tends to result in stronger finishes, and a few bonus percentage points in states like Hawaii, Alaska and Maine where Paul did especially well in 2008.
Now to Romney and Santorum. Keep in mind that the 33 contests that occur prior to April 1st result in proportionally allocated delegates. In these states I gave Romney the edge in the traditionally blue states where he will likely do well and Santorum takes the advantage in the red states. You may notice that in several states I have them tied, for instance Florida, Arizona, and Missouri. I think these races will be close and since they are no longer winner take all, they will roughly split the delegates in this scenario. Obviously I am not going to correctly predict the outcome of all 57 contests, but if the incorrect guesses balance each other out this does show that such a result is feasible.
In this scenario no candidate secures the 1144 delegates necessary to receive the nomination outside of a brokered convention. Our scenario’s results are as follows:
- Romney: 1114
- Santorum: 960
- Paul: 194
- Gingrich: 13
- Perry: 7
- Huntsmann: 1
- Bachmann: 1
As fate would have it, Romney, who won the Iowa Caucus by a mere 8 votes falls short by 30 delegates. Time to broker a deal at convention.
Even in the unlikely proposition that Gingrich, Perry, Huntsmann and Bachmann throw all their support behind Romney, he still falls short by…8 votes, oh the irony. It is more likely that Huntsman would give Romney his one delegate while Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann would give their collective 21 to Santorum. We now have:
- Romney: 1115
- Santorum: 981
- Paul: 194
Now what happens is anyone’s guess, I honestly have no idea. Paul is ideologically miles away from both Romney and Santorum, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Maybe he attempts to get a promise for a cabinet position like Secretary of Defense, State or Homeland Security so he can better influence foreign policy and/or civil liberty issues. Or maybe he will seek the Fed Chairman appointment, so he can reveal all the dirty secrets from the last 8+ years and then shut it down. Problem is all those positions require a majority vote by the Senate, and frankly Paul is too much of a threat to the status quo corporate cronyism and militarization for the powers that be to allow that to happen.
What will Paul seek, I don’t know, but if this very unlikely scenario plays out, Paul will be one of the biggest threats the establishment has ever encountered. Frankly before it came to that, I believe Santorum would simply hand his delegates to Romney rather than give Paul any power.
One more wild card, a brokered convention gives anyone not yet in the race a chance to rush in and attempt to steal the election. If we go to convention how many calls do you think Chris Christy, Paul Ryan, or Sarah Palin will receive?