A tasty leftover from last night, although of course there’s zero chance of Perry becoming the consensus nominee at a deadlocked convention. For one thing, you’re not going to see a deadlock unless the top two candidates are very close to each other in their delegate totals. If Trump waltzes in there with, say, 48 percent of the total and Cruz and Rubio are each stuck at 25 percent, which feels like the best-case scenario for conservatives right now, the two percent Trump needs to win will shake loose on the second ballot. Even if there was a deadlock, how weird would it be if the GOP decided to retrieve one of the also-rans from the primary to resolve it? Trump gets 40 percent of the delegates, Rubio gets 30 percent, Cruz gets 25 percent — and the nominee is the guy who couldn’t make it to mid-September last year? C’mon. Rubio and Cruz would make some sort of deal to make one of them nominee in that case, I’m sure. And if, for whatever freaky reason, we really did need someone to be brought in from the outside to become nominee, it would obviously be either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, two guys who already have national profiles thanks to the 2012 election.
Conservatism’s straits are now sufficiently dire that Rubio, the supposed Great Anti-Trump Hope, is already preparing for a brokered convention. Which makes sense, because realistically it’s his best-case scenario:
Marco Rubio’s campaign is preparing for a contested Republican Convention as one option to take the GOP nomination away from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, his campaign manager told top donors at a closed-door meeting in Manhattan Wednesday night…
Sullivan gave a “technical” explanation of how a contested or brokered convention would work. According to the sources in the room, the gathering appeared to be a matter-of-fact recognition by the Rubio campaign that a contested convention is very much a possibility…
There were close to some 200 people present at the midtown Manhattan meeting — and among them were former Jeb Bush supporters, the people present said.
They also laid out a path in which Rubio could win a majority before the convention, but that’s pure donor service, I think. The biggest problem Rubio and Cruz will encounter if they press on through the spring despite defeat after defeat to Trump is getting donors to keep ponying up to keep them going, knowing that all they’re playing for is a chance at the convention to have things break their way. And not a good chance either. Who wants to drop big bucks on an effort as dismal as that, especially knowing how vindictive Trump is likely to be? The “we can win before the convention” pitch is designed, I assume, to bank as much money as possible now even though Team Marco knows that Cleveland in June is their only path to the general.
So why is this clip interesting/newsworthy? Because: Although Perry’s going nowhere at a convention, he might make for a fine third-party conservative candidate if righties decide to split off en masse from a Trump-led GOP — and given what he says at the very end here about “everyone” being in play at a convention, he just might be open to it. I made the case a few days ago for why that’s worth thinking about. Whatever happens with the presidency, conservatives will want to keep the Senate as deep red as possible either as a check on Hillary or as a check on Trump. If millions stay home to protest Trump, that’s millions of Senate votes that are also staying home. With Perry at the top of a ticket — call it the Federalist Party, which lots of righties on Twitter seem to like — they’d have a reason to turn out and vote Republican downballot. As long as there are no expectations that Perry would win, he’d make a fine choice as the head of conservative rejectionists. Trumpers are staying home if Rubio somehow becomes the nominee, which is their right. Why should conservatives be held to a different standard? Rubio is almost certainly wrong when he says Trump won’t be the nominee but he’s certainly right when he says the party would split apart if that happens. That process will begin in earnest next Tuesday, I expect. Or, if I’m wrong and Nate Cohn is right, on March 15th at the latest.
Two exit questions for you. One: Is the phrasing here significant? “No plans,” not “no way,” huh? (“Zwick” is Spencer Zwick, Mitt Romney’s right-hand man.)
Zwick shoots down estab GOP chatter that Romney could be convention savior if Rubio stumbles: “No plans to be a candidate"
— Robert Costa (@costareports) February 26, 2016
Two: Is there any scenario where the GOP has a brokered convention and wins the general election anyway? The convention process will be bitter, alienating multiple constituencies as a candidate is chosen. Eventually we’ll have a nominee, either the populist Trump or a traditional conservative like Rubio or Cruz, and a huge chunk of the party will resolve not to vote for him. Most of them will be blowing smoke and will come home in November but plenty won’t, which gives Hillary an advantage. The likelihood of a Trump/Rubio or Trump/Cruz unity ticket seems smaller by the day as the attacks get nastier, and even if it happened I’m not sure it would achieve its purpose. I did an informal survey of Cruz and Rubio supporters on Twitter yesterday and asked how many would vote for Trump if their guy was named VP and nearly all in both camps balked. That’s a very small, skewed sample given that lots of those people are committed activists rather than casual voters, but it’s proof that Trump + Cruz/Rubio does not = unity. The GOP’s already got a big, big problem, whatever happens over the next three months. I don’t know if it can be solved.