The Possibility Of The Republican Race Going To The Convention

With conservatives hating Mitt Romney, but each of the conservative candidates currently in the race having major flaws, I have speculated several times in the past about the possibility of the nomination being decided by the convention. I have wondered if it is possible that, as during the past year, each conservative candidate might have periods of time and places where they could do well against Romney. Each conservative candidate might have a significant block of candidates which, while less than Romney’s might total over half the delegates. This might lead to a situation where Romney has the largest block of delegates, but not enough to clinch the nomination.

The possibility of this would partially depend upon the rules for each primary. If the primaries were winner-take-all, then Romney would have an easier job of coming in first in enough states to accumulate enough delegates to clinch the nomination. However, proportional division might result in Romney’s delegates being outnumbered by anti-Romney delegates, even if none of the conservative candidates comes close to Romney’s total. Salon has analyzed the primary rules and found that this scenario is possible.

The key rule is that states holding primaries and caucuses prior to April 1 will all have proportional division of delegates, making it much harder for one candidate to accumulate enough delegates in the early states to have enough to a lead to make their nomination inevitable.  This rule means that 1,163 of 2,380 total delegates will be chosen before the first winner-take-all states. A substantial number, perhaps a majority, will be delegates for more conservative candidates. It is possible that by April only around 350 anti-Romney delegates divided among more conservative candidates would be needed to deny Romney the nomination.

If this scenario does play out it is possible that nobody will be able to win the nomination on early ballots and another candidate could ultimately be chosen. This would save the Republicans from having to chose from a particularly poor field. The question still remains whether any candidate who is acceptable to the far right of the Republican Party could be found who isn’t too extreme to win in a general election. Such a candidate might receive some benefit from a probable post-convention bounce and lack of public knowledge of their negatives. There will still be time for the candidate’s faults to come out, as occurred with Sarah Palin in 2008.  Perhaps a right-wing dominated convention might even be foolish enough to nominate Palin, although polls of Republicans suggest that is unlikely. There is also the question as to how much of an advantage it would be for Obama to be able to campaign against Republican policies in general through the spring and summer, even if he didn’t have a specific opponent, while the Republicans would have no candidate going into the convention. Regardless of how it plays out, it does raise the possibility of interesting developments in the horse race after going for decades where the conventions ceased to have much meaning.