New Republican primary rules are going to make it basically impossible for any candidate to wrap up the Republican nomination very early in 2012. In fact, the new Republican primary rules make a “brokered convention” much more likely and they also make it much more likely that the Republican establishment will attempt to steal the nomination away from a candidate that they do not like. How exactly they would do this will be discussed later in the article. The key is that most Republican primaries and caucuses will now allocate delegates using a proportional system rather than a “winner take all” system. Back in 2008, John McCain did very well in early “winner take all” primaries and wrapped up the Republican nomination very, very quickly. Nothing like that will happen in 2012. In fact, if the field remains crowded it is going to be very difficult for any candidate to accumulate more than 50 percent of the delegates by the time the Republican national convention rolls around. As will be discussed later on in this article, that would move the power into the hands of the Republican establishment.
First, let’s try to understand what these new changes are. Sadly, it appears that even most Republican voters do not understand how things have changed.
The following rule was adopted by the Republican Party back in August 2010….
“Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting held for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention which occurs prior to the first day of April in the year in which the national convention is held, shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.”
This new rule means that delegates will be apportioned to candidates on a proportional basis in Republican caucuses and primaries that are conducted prior to April 1st. One notable exception to this rule is Florida, which got approval to remain a “winner take all” state. So Florida will be very important.
In addition, all of the states that are now using “proportional representation” do not allocate delegates the exact same way. Each state has slightly different election rules.
But in general, in most of the primaries and caucuses held before April 1st, delegates will be awarded to multiple candidates instead of to just a single candidate.
Therefore, it now becomes much less important who wins each individual state. Instead, the key is how many delegates a candidate picks up in each state.
The Republicans decided to go to such a system after watching the extended battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008. The following comes from a recent Huffington Post article….
Don’t look for a quick winner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. After watching Democrats successfully ride their historic primary battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama all the way to the White House in 2008, the Republicans quietly adopted a new rule designed to extend their nominating process this time around.
The rule limits the ability of candidates to win large numbers of delegates in early primaries and caucuses – those held before April – because delegates must be awarded in proportion to the votes a candidate receives.
If proportional representation would have been used back in 2008, the Republican race would have looked much different. John McCain would have had to battle much, much longer to secure the nomination.
The following comes from fairvote.org….
Consider the 2008 Republican nomination contest. John McCain secured an essentially insurmountable lead on February 5, Super Tuesday. Sen. McCain had become the frontrunner heading into Super Tuesday by winning three key primaries: South Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire. His average percentage share in those contests was just 34.5%, and he never even broke the 40% threshold. Even on February 5, he won only 3 states with a majority of the vote.
Although McCain on Super Tuesday did not capture a majority of the popular vote (and did not, in fact, ever reach a majority of 50% of votes cast in primaries), McCain’s disproportionately large delegate count forced his leading opponents to drop out of the race.
Some even believe that an extended three way race between McCain, Romney and Huckabee could have resulted in a “brokered convention” back in 2008. The following analysis comes from a recent Daily Kos article….
In 2008, the Republican primary contest was decided quickly and relatively painlessly only because there were winner-take-all rules at the time. Those rules have been changed. If you take the current proportional delegate rules and apply them to the results of the 2008 race through Feb 5th, when the race was still heavily contested, something very surprising happens. John McCain, who took a commanding lead under the winner-take-all rules in effect in most states, instead ends up behind Mitt Romney by eight delegates (with a confidence factor of plus or minus 5 delegates.) The standings, with more than half the delegates decided, would have been as follows.
This year, there will be very few “winner take all” primaries, and most of those will be at the end of the schedule.
This is going to encourage candidates to stick around longer. The more delegates that a candidate can accumulate, the more leverage that candidate will have moving into the convention.
Right now, the Republican field is very crowded and nobody has been able to take a commanding lead in the polls. The possibility that no candidate will be able to accumulate more than 50% of the delegates by the time of the Republican convention seems to grow by the day.
If no candidate has won more than 50% of the delegates by convention time, then it is likely that we will have a brokered convention.
So exactly what is a brokered convention?
The following is how Wikipedia defines a brokered convention….
A brokered convention is a situation in United States politics in which there are not enough delegates ‘won’ during the presidential primary and caucus elections for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority, during the first official vote for a political party’s presidential-candidate at its nominating convention.
Once the first ballot, or vote, has occurred, and no candidate has a majority of the delegates’ votes, the convention is then considered brokered; thereafter, the nomination is decided through a process of alternating political horse-trading, and additional re-votes. In this circumstance, all regular delegates (who, previously, were pledged to the candidate who had won their respective state’s primary or caucus election) are “released,” and are able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of balloting. It is hoped that this ‘freedom’ will result in a re-vote resulting in a clear majority of delegates for one candidate.
Okay, so how does all of this make it possible for the Republican establishment to steal the nomination from a candidate that they do not like?
It is actually very easy.
If the Republican establishment does not like the candidate that is leading in the delegate count, they can try to shoot for a brokered convention.
They can do this by encouraging candidates to say in the race longer in order to water down the vote.
They can also do this by encouraging late entrants into the race in order to steal some delegates away.
In fact, there are persistent rumors that the Republican establishment is already lining up late entrants to enter the race. The following comes from a recent Wall Street Journal article….
Efforts are underway by some wealthy Republican donors and a group of conservative leaders to investigate whether a new Republican candidate could still get into the presidential race. The talk is still preliminary and somewhat wishful, but it reflects dissatisfaction with the two leading candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Conservative leaders are looking into whether it is feasible for a dark horse to get on the ballot in select states. The deadline to qualifying for the ballot has passed in Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, and New Hampshire. But a candidate could still get on the ballot in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas. At the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, voters write in their choice, so there is no formal filing deadline.
The chatter about potential new entrants include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, businessman Donald Trump, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.
If a candidate that the Republican establishment does not like gets out to an early lead, the Republican establishment will move heaven and earth in an attempt to keep that candidate from accumulating 50 percent of the delegates.
The goal would be to cause a brokered convention which would enable the Republican establishment to hand pick whatever candidate that they want.
In fact, if a brokered convention happens the Republicans could end up selecting someone that is not even running.
It certainly does not sound very American, but this is a very real possibility.
The Republican establishment is only going to go along with the will of the people as long as they pick the “correct” candidate.
That is why any anti-establishment candidate is going to be facing a huge uphill battle this year. It would be way too easy for the Republican establishment to force a brokered convention.
Any candidate that wants to avoid a brokered convention is going to have to accumulate more than 50 percent of the delegates before the convention, and that is going to be very difficult to do under the new rules.