The dream of a brokered convention

The other reason that this year’s GOP may convene the first multi-ballot convention since the Democrats in ’52 involves the revised rules and schedule of Republican primaries. Last time, McCain won the nomination on February 5 (Super Tuesday) by grabbing 574 delegates–including 170 in California alone. This time, there is no real “Super Tuesday” with a flurry of crucial primaries on the same day, and Californians won’t vote till June 6 (a full 120 days later than last year). Moreover, most states have shunned the “winner take all” system of delegate apportionment that allowed prior candidates to land knock-blows with only 30 or 35 percent of a state’s votes, bagging all the delegates with only slight pluralities in a divided field.

The proportional distribution of most delegates for 2012 means that even if Romney (or Gingrich) wins most of the contested primaries, in the highly likely event that he scores less than 50 percent he could well earn less than half the first-ballot delegates–mandating a deadlocked convention and unpredictable developments on second, third or fourth ballots.

This outcome appeals to all media outlets (which would relish the high drama and corresponding high ratings) as well as party organizers who would welcome the engagement of the grass roots in a fiercely competitive race and a visibly open convention.