Why would conservatives wish for a brokered convention?

posted at 11:35 am on January 26, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Every four years, the media likes to speculate about brokered conventions, an outcome from a primary season that hasn’t happened in more than a half-century.  This time around, the talk of brokered conventions includes conservatives who see that outcome as a way to clear the decks and find a true grassroots-style conservative rather than an establishment candidate to top the ticket in November.  Joe Scarborough said last week that “conservative movers and shakers in Washington” tell him that backing Newt Gingrich is only a game of keep-away preventing Mitt Romney from winning the nomination outright, and that they hope for a brokered convention that produces another candidate altogether:

SCARBOROUGH: You know, the people I always talk about.  People say, Joe, don’t you love the Republican party?  Yes! Chris Christie.  Jeb Bush.  Mitch Daniels.  Paul Ryan.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Are we talking about these guys again?  Is this what has happened?

SCARBOROUGH: This is important for people at home to understand this. You know I’ve been talking quietly to the most powerful, I think, conservative movers-and-shakers in Washington over the past couple weeks, trying to get their read. Are we really going down this path? Every single one I’ve spoken to is trying to figure out a way to get to a brokered convention. Everyone thinks, resents the fact that Mitt Romney’s people think that he’s entitled to this.  I don’t know if it’s possible or not.  But that’s what the Republican establisment wants.

The Christian Science Monitor reported on the “rumblings” yesterday:

More than ever, the 2012 nominating process is confounding pundits and proving unpredictable. It’s unlikely that any candidate will wrap up the nomination quickly, and now buzz – which has been present for some time – is increasing about the possibility of a brokered convention and even a late-entrant candidate.

In the past week, influential conservatives, includingRush Limbaugh and Joe Scarborough, have discussed the growing rumblings. According to Mr. LImbaugh, many in the Republican party are welcoming Gingrich’s resurgence, not because they like him as a candidate but because they have misgivings about Romney. …

Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) of Texaspredicted a brokered convention on CNBC Monday night, and Michael Steele, the former national chairman of the Republican party, recently put the chances of a brokered convention at 50-50. “The base wants its chance to have their say,” he told the The Huffington Post. “They aren’t going to want it to end early, before they get their chance, which means that the process could go all the way to Tampa.”

In my column today for The Fiscal Times, I explain why a brokered convention is unlikely — and why it would be a nightmare for the very people who want to see one in order to block Romney as the “establishment” nominee:

It takes a special set of circumstances to get to a brokered convention, and this year’s race isn’t likely to provide them.  To keep one candidate from acquiring a majority of pledged delegates, brokered-convention fans generally need at least three candidates to win significant amounts of delegates.  The 1976 fight was an exception; Gerald Ford lacked a clear majority in a two-man race, but ended up winning on the first ballot anyway when Ronald Reagan made a couple of political missteps.  This race looks like it will become a two-person race, especially when the simultaneous primary dates begin and Mitt Romney’s organizational advantage takes effect.  In April and beyond, all of the primaries and caucuses are winner-take-all, and Romney’s large money advantage over Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul puts him in position to cinch a majority if Gingrich hasn’t precluded the possibility by that time.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that no one candidate has a majority of the delegates, and none manages to wangle a majority on the first ballot at the convention.  How does this benefit conservatives, who have fought the “establishment” that has pushed Romney for the nomination?  The nominating process will then fall into the hands of the Republican National Committee, comprised of state party chairs and other power brokers, where the Tea Party has little or no influence. The fantasy in this case will be that the assembled party bosses and delegates, many of whom are part of state-party establishments, will crown a completely new candidate.

Who would that candidate likely be?  It’s not going to be Sarah Palin or Herman Cain, who are the antithesis of this kind of back room wheeling and dealing and who aren’t necessarily trusted by the people negotiating the question. Assuming that it’s not one of the candidates who couldn’t close the deal in the primaries, it might be Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, or another establishment figure that chose not to run and get vetted in the first place.

And what would be the result if this happened?

Some of those choices might appeal to some Republicans, but consider the hole from which this nominee would start. Ten weeks from the election, the party would have a nominee for which no one had cast a ballot in a primary, who has raised no money, who has built no organization, and who has articulated no platform before getting drafted at the convention.  Put that up against the re-election campaign of Barack Obama and his $250-$300 million campaign fund and more from unions and the entertainment industry, and it would be a prescription for political suicide – and not just for the presidency, either.  The disarray would impact House and Senate races all around the country and risk not just the opportunity to take back control of the upper chamber, but also put control of the lower chamber up for grabs.

A late entrant in the race might be another option, but without money and organization, one is very unlikely to get a majority of delegates in the primaries, which leads back to a brokered convention again — and hand-picking a candidate in the proverbial smoke-filled back rooms.  Matt Lewis points out the folly of going with a late entrant now:

But while the current GOP field is weak, the notion that the other candidates commonly bandied about would be superior strikes me as flawed. These bench sitters look good precisely because they didn’t run for president. (Had Rick Perry sat out, there is little doubt his name would be among those mentioned.) Every likely future candidate — just like every current candidate — comes with strengths and weaknesses.

To prove the point, let’s examine a few of the names most frequently mentioned …

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a smart and serious man. But he looks like Vladimir Putin on TV. He has little charisma. (I’ve met him.) What is more, fairly recently, he offended social conservatives by saying we should have a “truce” on social issues — and fiscal conservatives by speaking favorably of a VAT tax. His wife doesn’t want him to run, and if he did run, his marriage would become an issue.

Haley Barbour left the governorship of Mississippi after pardoning 200 prisoners — including murderers and rapists. Fifteen minutes after leaving the job, he was a lobbyist again. And don’t forget that Barbour briefly flirted with running for president, during which time he became embroiled in a race scandal after praising the Citizens Council in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has a terrific resume and a great record. He is obviously intelligent. But remember his widely-panned State of the Union response? Do Republicans want to take a chance he will pull a Perry?

I’ve previously listed the reasons Paul Ryan should take a pass this time around. And Jeb Bush? Yeah, his last name is … Bush.

Look how well some of our can’t-miss candidates performed when they had to go through a vetting process in the debates.  Do we really want to pick someone who just skipped all that and wait for an “oops” or a “you go first” moment  in the ten weeks between the convention and the general election?

We need to focus on the candidates we have at this stage, and sharpen them up for a general-election fight.  Mostly, though, we need to get them to return to speaking about Republican and conservative values, rather than ripping each other with previews of Democratic attacks, and acting like they want to lead this party for the next four years and not the other.  While we’re doing that, we will need to increase our focus on House, Senate, and gubernatorial races so that in the future we have reliable and credible conservative candidates to run for Republican presidential nominations.

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RightWay79 on January 26, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Sorry RightWay79, but I hardly believe a word Mitt says. I don’t believe much of what Newt says either. A plan is just as easy to walk away from as a promise. All he has to do once he is elected is not implement it.

For me, past political action is the best indicator. Romney is a better man toward his family (as far as I know) than Newt, but Newt has a better record in governance (though not by too much) than Romney.

Personally, I want none of the above. I’ll vote for the Republican and pray that the country doesn’t fall apart. I don’t have faith in any of the candidates though.

Pattosensei on January 26, 2012 at 6:07 PM

You look at what Mitt says he’s gonna do – I for one, look at his actions.

– Gun control.
– Appointing Liberal Judges.
– Government Run Healthcare.
– Massive Spending.
– Support of Global Warming.

Frankly, to even see that man’s names on a republican ballot is farcical.

People lie to get what they want. Their actions however, typically betray their intentions.
SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 5:34 PM

I don’t mean to quibble…but these are all standard anti-Romney talking points.

Do a little digging and you’ll find that most of these are stretching the truth in the least.

I did a simple google search on “Romney appointed liberal judges” and found that “accusation” to be outright false.

I am a fervent supporter of the Constitution, and certainly the 2nd Amendment, but some of these things you have to look at with a bit of common sense. Romney is not going to come and take your guns away.

Romneycare was meant for Massachusetts (and yes, as a blueprint for other STATES who anted to try it) but never was it meant to be a model for a Federal Policy. There’s a HUGE differences in what State Governments should be allowed to do and what the Federal Government should be limited to doing. Romney understands that.

Etc Etc…

Most of the other points go back to the idea of Federalism and how different State Government’s powers and the Federal Government’s powers are (and should be).

Romney is accused of being a “statist”, by which I presume people intend to mean he is some kind of supporter of an over-active, over-reaching Federal Government.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Romney is a Federalist and believes states should be “the labratories of democracy”. This is a bedrock Conservative principle.

Is he absolutely perfect and God-like?
But this fear of Romney is misplaced, at best.

RightWay79 on January 26, 2012 at 6:07 PM

If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. – Samuel Adams

This seems about right in response to Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and the other so called conservative pundits that will stop at nothing to foist Romney upon us

jmw on January 26, 2012 at 1:52 PM

Is Newt’s grandiosity contagious? It seems a bit, oh, I dunno…over the top to refer to “servitude”, “arms”, “licking the hand that feeds you”, and “chains”, when discussing a primary fight, for goodness sake! Samuel Adams was talking about colonists resisting England in the Revolutionary War, and you want to compare that to defending Leroy from Ann Coulter?!

captn2fat on January 26, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Pattosensei on January 26, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Thanks! :)

RightWay79 on January 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Thanks for disagreeing in an agreeable way. :)

Of course there are positive what-ifs. The problem is that those positive what-ifs are built on shakier ground than the negative ones (i.e. the positives are based on the promises of two men trying to convince us they deserve power; the negatives are based on what they stood for when they weren’t asking for our votes).

I want to believe the best about these candidates. I really do. But I care more about the country than either of them. So I’m willing to be painfully realistic about their faults and hope that a brokered convention would produce a better option–because when I consider whether any of them would be better than Obama, the most enthusiastic answer I can muster is “Short term? Probably. Long term? Only if records are no indication of how they’ll actually serve and they don’t destroy any chance we have of ever winning the White House again.”

(Note: In saying I care more about the country than the candidates, I don’t mean to imply your priorities are otherwise; I’m just explaining why I’m thinking what I am.)

And of course, there is still the problem of having to convince a majority of Americans in each state that the candidates we have to do mental gymnastics to justify would be better than Obama.

My gut feeling is we are about to blow our one shot at getting the country back on track. I could be wrong. I hope I am! But that gut feeling is telling me this dire situation we find ourselves in is not the time to nominate (or vote into office) someone hoping he’s as conservative as he says–not unless all other options have been exhausted.

butterflies and puppies on January 26, 2012 at 6:40 PM

Q: Are you still for the Brady Bill?

A: The Brady Bill has changed over time, and, of course, technology has changed over time. I would have supported the original assault weapon ban. I signed an assault weapon ban in Massachusetts governor because it provided for a relaxation of licensing requirements for gun owners in Massachusetts, which was a big plus. And so both the pro-gun and the anti-gun lobby came together with a bill, and I signed that.

In 2004, Gov. Romney signed a firearms reform bill that made permanent the ban on “assault weapons.”

Joe Battenfeld in Boston Herald , Aug 1, 1994

The candidate reiterated his support for an assault weapons ban contained in Congress’ crime bill, and the Brady law which imposes a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases. ‘I don’t think (the waiting period) will have a massive effect on crime but I think it will have a positive effect,’ Romney said.


You do not want to play this game with me. Unfortunately for you, no only can I source this crap, know what I am talking about, I have been following this idiot Romney and fighting against him since LAST election.

SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 8:31 PM

Here we have Ken-Doll using the raw, unabridged might of the state to crush those who refused to pay into his communist health care system:

“Of the approximately half-million uninsured in Massachusetts, about 200,000 were healthy risk takers who preferred spending dollars on goods other than premiums for health care insurance they figured they would not need.

In fact thousands of those risk-takers end up needing health care, and of the expensive sort. The state and the care providers eat the costs, which means the taxpayer and premium payers eventually get the bills. To this group, Romney gives no choice. In January, 2008, they must either insure themselves or be subject to a fine. The poor get subsidies as well as assistance in signing up.”

The legislature tacked on a provision that penalizes companies of 11 or more employees that do not provide health insurance. Romney vetoed this add-on. The legislature overrode his veto. But the lawmakers still handed Romney an enormous victory. They did so because the plan manifestly makes sense.”


SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 8:37 PM

Romneycare as a testbed for national health care?

“Massachusetts has become the pioneer in universal coverage [via Romney’s] plan for radically restructuring the health-care financing system. One piece is subsidizing low-income families’ purchase of private health insurance, instead of reimbursing hospitals for treating the uninsured. The other big idea creates an insurance exchange-a public bank that will collect the premiums from individuals and pass them on to their chosen insurers-so individuals can buy health insurance with pretax dollars.

The program’s passage with overwhelming bipartisan support is a notable achievement. It remains to be seen how many uninsured people actually order policies. Romney remarked, “I wish I were going to be governor the next five years to see it through,” but he will step down at the end of this year and is preparing to seek the presidency. Meanwhile, his health plan gives him a unique calling card-and provides the country with an important opportunity to test one possible solution to a vexing problem.”


SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Yeah… you’ll buy it and if you don’t, we will fine you – if you don’t pay that… we will take your home, your car, or jail you. How very CONSERVATIVE.

“Romney made some questionable statements about the Massachusetts universal health care plan he signed into law, saying he opposed employer mandates: “When I said government mandate, I meant employer mandate.”

Massachusetts may not call its rules for employers a “mandate,” but the state health care plan includes several “obligations” or “requirements,” as the state dubs them, for employers, along with fees for noncompliance. The requirements for employers are much narrower than those for individuals, who indeed, according to the state, face a “mandate” to get health insurance.

But is a “requirement” a “mandate”? You be the judge: Employers with more than 10 full-time employees must pay at least 33% of employee premium costs or have a group health plan. Those that fail to do so must pay a fee of $295 per full-time employee per year.

Individuals in the state must have health insurance. If not, they’ll lose their personal exemption on state income taxes in 2007–a penalty of $219.”


SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Shall we continue? Every single “talking point” as you have mislabeled THE TRUTH I can back up with reams and reams of crap directly from the goose’s blubbering lips.


Let’s talk about global warming…

“I believe that climate change is occurring–the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.”


“As nations like China and India make available to their citizens the automobiles and appliances that we take for granted in the West, their energy demands–and their emissions–will rise dramatically. If developing nations won’t curb emissions, even extreme mitigation measures taken by the US and other developed nations will have no appreciable effect on slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

These considerations lead me to this: We would pursue a no-regrets policy at home, and we should continue to engage in global efforts–not just US & European efforts–to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. By no regrets, I mean that we ought to take unilateral action on emissions when doing so is also consistent with our objective for reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Internationally, we should work to limit the increase in emissions in greenhouse gases, but in doing so, we shouldn’t put ourselves in a disadvantageous economic position that penalizes American jobs and economic growth.”


Q: Well, their point is that you have got to do something about global warming. Isn’t that your understanding?

A: Oh, sure. And there’s nothing wrong with dealing with global warming. But there is a big difference between talking about global warming, which requires global solutions, and the idea of America warming. No one talks about America warming. If we’re going to have solutions that deal, for instance, with a cap in trade program or a BTU tax or anything of that nature, it has to be global in its sweep. But Sen. McCain’s proposition is that we do this as America only. A unilateral effort would only cause higher costs here, and give the advantage to nations that already have a substantial cost advantage.

SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Every rotten point I stand on with regards to this man is the truth. I do not “malign” people without damn good reasons for doing so. Romney’s words, Romney’s votes, Romney’s positions.

If his supporters have a problem with me bringing up these damning facts, that’s too bad, they should have picked someone that didn’t VOTE the way Romney voted, take the POSITIONS Romney took, and SAID the things Ken-Doll said…

And no I don’t particularly care if me pointing out his own stupidity damages Romney for “the election” with Hussein – because I believe these things disqualify him from ever deserving my allegiance or support, as well as in terms of being able to be anything approaching a good president.

…and I believe I have made my position QUITE clear when it comes to my voting for someone I feel is uniformly unfit for office… even if that means Hussein gets a second term to destroy the nation with.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” -Goldwater.

SilverDeth on January 26, 2012 at 9:02 PM


Your passion is nothing short of admirable, but I still (ever so humbly) suggest that your wrath is misdirected.

I will see your ontheissues.org and raise you one aboutmittromney.com

Here we have a tale of two conclusions.

You examine Romney’s record and statesments (as provided by On The Issues) and come to the conclusion that Mitt Romney is a liberal statist.

AboutMitt Romney.com looks at the same set of data (Romney’s record and statements) and comes to the conclusion that Romney is some kind of Conservative Superhero.

It all comes down to the bias one brings to the table.

You do not like Romney. Perhaps you saw one thing he said or did and that lead to the creation of Evil Romney in your mind. Now, whatever he says or does (or said or did) is automatically filtered though your RomneyHate perception.

Conversely, aboutmittromney.com was clearly set up by a serious Romney-phile, in whose eyes, Romney can do no wrong.

For my money, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

In the Information Age, we have become a “Facts” -obsessed culture. This is especially true in politics. We dig up a long cold quote or a position held years ago and use this to damage (or praise) a political opponent.

But when two people can look at the same body of evidence (Romney’s record and quotes) and come away with such divergent opinions, it should give us all pause as to the nature of “modern Truth”. (Though this probably skews off on a tangenital philosophical rant… so let me get back to the point…)

Bottom line, you look at the “facts” and take away form them that Romney is evil (and must be destroyed). Others look at the “facts” and come away with the perception that Romney is a Conservative Champion.

My thinking is that there is a bit of “spin” from both sides.

Romney needs a new speechwriter – the “I Believe in America” ad nauseum trope is quickly moving from mildly annoying to “slam my head against the wall” territory – because his speeches tend towards platitudes.

But, Romney has told us what he plans to do in his 59-point plan. I don’t need to be ginned up by a fire-breathing speech. For me, the plan is enough. It’s solid (and quite Conservative).

In conclusion, I would just like to proffer that one’s past personal (and political) behavior is not necessarily a solid indication of how they will act in the future (both positively and negatively). Human behavior and political thought is not permanently black and white. You cannot predict how someone will act simply by a statement made or an action taken years ago.

I truly understand that we don’t trust our politicians (and for good reason). But, wouldn’t it be refreshing to drop the cynicism and just take someone at their word? I am choosing to do this with Romney.

RightWay79 on January 27, 2012 at 9:01 AM

In conclusion, I would just like to proffer that one’s past personal (and political) behavior is not necessarily a solid indication of how they will act in the future

So in that case, we should just vote for Obama then… since, you know… after all…

just ignore his record…

who cares about what they’ve done in the past… listen to what they say… and hey man NOBODY is promising a bigger Utopia than King Barry Hussein Obama…

But, wouldn’t it be refreshing to drop the cynicism and just take someone at their word? I am choosing to do this with Romney.

Why in God’s name would I vote for someone that requires me to suspend my critical thinking skills, and ignore Mitt’s record of banning guns, supporting global warming, overspending, appointing liberal judges, and forcing people to suffer under socialized medicine.

You don’t seem to want an educated, thinking voter. You want a drone.

Run Mitt as a democrat. They have PLENTY of those on hand.

SilverDeth on January 27, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Addendum: “Just ignore his record” was intended to be “Bold” not a “Quote.”

SilverDeth on January 27, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Bill Quick, a good fellow over at Daily Pundit chimes in:

You Make Your Bed, We’ll Bury You In It
by Bill Quick
Daily Pundit

Intrade – Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Florida Primary is 91.8% probable

Apparently the debate tonight didn’t help Newt at all. In fact, Mittens Romneycare surged to a 92% chance of winning Florida.

If he wins, this will be portrayed as closing the deal for him, and it may well do so.

In which case, let me be clear. I would support, work for, contribute to, and back Newt to the hilt as the GOP nominee.

I would hold my nose and vote for Saint Santorum, although I think that, although he has no chance of winning the nomination, he stayed in and helped destroy Newt’s chances. So I’ll vote for him, miserable pecksniffian crapweasel that he is, although I won’t work for him, support him otherwise, donate to him, talk him up, or do anything else for him. And if I have to make the effort of going to the polls in order to vote for him, rather than simply filling out an absentee ballot, I probably won’t bother.

Mittens Romneycare? I won’t vote for him. Period. Or do anything else for him. Why should I? Mittens Romneycare, Barry Obamacare? Mittens VAT, Barry Tax Anything that Moves? Mittens I’m a Progressive? Barry I’m a Socialist?

What’s the difference?

If the GOP is operating on the premise that I will vote for any piece of **** they try to cram down my throat because Barack Obama is Satan, guess again.

I didn’t think the Stupid Party could find a way to lose an election that my ******* dog could win, but as Friedrich Schiller (and Isaac Asimov) noted:

Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

SilverDeth on January 27, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Why in God’s name would I vote for someone that requires me to suspend my critical thinking skills, and ignore Mitt’s record of banning guns, supporting global warming, overspending, appointing liberal judges, and forcing people to suffer under socialized medicine.

aboutmittromney.com does address each of those items and (using Romney’s record and quotes) more or less debunks each of these assertions.

So, my point was, it’s clearly a subjective choice as to which conclusion is correct. If you don’t like Romney, you will go with the negative conclusion. If you do, then you will agree with the debunking.

But, whatever the case, I honestly do not understand the thinking which says that Romney would not be better than Obama. (Those who hate Romney even assert that Romney would be worse than Obama… and that I REALLY don’t get.)

RightWay79 on January 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Worse? No. Better enough to save the nation?

In my opinion, no. We don’t need a statist steward right now.

And equivocations and passing the blame to others does nothing to change the fact that acquiring a firearm in Mass – largely thanks to Mitt – is a horror-show. His healthcare plan was the blue-pint for Obama’s. He still put a crap-load of blubbering idiots on the bench. He can’t unsay he buys into global warming. The spending I could forgive him on, maybe, we’ve all overspent at times.

The cries that he was sabotaged by the legislature or judicial branches ring hollow – you are free to do nothing, indeed, doing nothing when presented with naught but awful options is at times, the best course of action.

For example…

The Conservative Base of the Republican party is given a choice between picking Full-On-Commie Obama, and Statist-Progressive-Romney. Given that both choices are bad, they choose to stay home and do nothing with their time, their money, and their votes.

It’s gonna tun out badly regardless of who wins when presented with such a decision, so sometimes, the best course of action is to not be a party to evil.

Doing nothing is very much a choice. And it sends a message to the establishment jack-asses that their party is collapsing from the inside out. If the Republicans want to make themselves irrelevant, then by God, they can die out the way the party they replaced in the 1850’s did.

SilverDeth on January 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM

If the GOP is operating on the premise that I will vote for any piece of **** they try to cram down my throat because Barack Obama is Satan, guess again.

That’s another thought process I don’t get.
Most people who do not like Romney seem to think that we are being forced to vote for Romney by some nebulous, nefarious, shadow “Establishment”.

Conspiracy theories aside, couldn’t it just be that Romney has made the best case so far for beating Obama and governing in a Center-Right fashion? And THAT is why he is doing well in the nomination process thus far?

RightWay79 on January 27, 2012 at 11:30 AM


I hate to post and run, but I really have to get back to my (sadly neglected) work duties.

I have enjoyed this back and forth. I hope you agree, that in the very least, our discussion has helped each of us to refine our arguments.

Thanks for the chat so far!

RightWay79 on January 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM