Flirting with a chaotic GOP convention

• Clear Cluster: The least-likely scenario is that no candidate will reach Cleveland with close to a majority of delegates—but several are clustered a few hundred delegates short of the 1,237 needed to become the nominee. This historical anomaly would produce a real-life experiment in how button-downed, conservative Republicans deal with pure chaos. The broadcast networks might actually want to cover all four nights.

• Party Buster: Equally chaotic could be a convention with a presumptive nominee who is still several dozen (or hundreds) of delegates shy of a majority—especially if the establishment or conservative wings strongly oppose the delegate leader. Most delegates are bound only for the first presidential ballot. Other candidates could coalesce to deny the leader a first-ballot win. This would free most delegates for subsequent ballots.

At that point, knowing whom each delegate really supports would become crucial. In many states, candidates don’t get to choose who their delegates are. Under Republican rules, delegates bound to a candidate for the presidential roll call are not bound to follow that candidate on any other votes, including those for vice president or important rules and credentials issues. This situation can unsettle any convention and would require whip operations like no candidate has had for generations.

In any case, what there will not be is a “brokered” convention. There are no “brokers” left in the Republican Party.