Brokered Convention: Nothing To Worry About
Reportedly, the Republican National Committee has taken the uncharacteristic step of preparing for an eventuality. The bigwigs gathered together and discussed what to do if there is no nominee by the time the convention rolls around.
This gave rise to paranoid fear of a brokered convention, which apparently means that the RNC swoops in to anoint Jeb Bush as the nominee. Or something.
If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party. I pray that the report in The Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it.?— Dr Ben Carson
After seeing this kind of misinformation, I decided to go through the different scenarios and explain why there’s nothing for Republicans to worry about.
- There can only be a brokered convention if nobody wins the primaries. If one candidate wins a majority of delegates, be it Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Jim Gilmore, that person will be nominated at the convention. There’s nothing the RNC can do to stop this.
- A floor fight doesn’t mean a brokered convention. If no one person wins the nomination in the primaries, the most likely outcome is still a first ballot win.
- The most likely scenario for a floor fight is as follows: The race ends up a close race between two candidates, but neither one has a majority because of unpledged delegates. This will end up like the 1976 Republican convention, and like the 2008 Democratic convention came close to. Those undecided delegates will be picking from those two candidates, one of whom will win on the first ballot. No brokered convention.
- Scenario 2 for a floor fight: Three candidates (or more) each win several primaries, which results in a split of delegates. This scenario is extremely unlikely, as I will detail below, but let’s go through it. Say Trump, Cruz and Rubio all win between 20–40% of delegates (could be anyone, but I’m just using those 3 as placeholders). We now have our theoretical brokered convention. What is most likely is two of these candidates merge campaigns- say Rubio agrees to run as Cruz’s VP, or Cruz as Trump’s. The merged campaign will win on the first ballot.
- Let’s go the next step: any such deal falls through. Each candidate insists on continuing their campaign. After the first three ballots all pledged delegates are no longer bound to vote for their candidate. Congratulations, we now have a brokered convention. But remember this: those delegates are picked by each campaign. Nobody can force them to vote for the establishment candidate. Nobody. Any compromise candidate will need the approval of several candidates holding the allegiance of a majority of delegates. For example, Rubio and Cruz may pick Mike Lee as a compromise.
- Finally, the will of the voters will not be thwarted. If voters pick a candidate, he will win. If they don’t, there is no will of the voters.
Others have been more contested, but all of them had one person win a majority of delegates. There’s a conventional wisdom that this year’s deeper field makes it more likely that no one wins, but I looked through the different years and that’s not what I found. Every time there was a large number of candidates, even a large number who won primaries, (think GOP in 2012 & 2008, Dems in 2004, 1992, both parties in 1988), one candidate clearly took the lead early on and had the nomination in the bag before ¾ of delegates were awarded. In fact the only times it got further than that was when two strong candidates battled it out to the finish line, 2008 for the Democrats and 1976 for the Republicans. I don’t claim to know why in a multiple candidate race one surges ahead, but I don’t see why this election will be different. Republicans will have a candidate by May.