Deadlocked Convention Could Turn to Christie, Bush

Saturday, 05 Nov 2011 08:02 AM

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Elements within the Republican Party are dreaming of a deadlocked convention that will hand the GOP’s standard to a Jeb Bush or a Chris Christie, candidates they believe are best suited to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

deadlocked convention christie bushUnder the scenario batted around by party leaders and pundits, the top tier candidates battle it out state by state, dividing up the wins and delegates until they stumble into the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August with no winner. Deal making fails to crown any of the candidates and the field is opened up.

Former Florida Gov. Bush, New Jersey Gov. Christie or Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels gets the nomination, upsetting nearly 60 years of presidential nominating history.

“Yes, I have heard such talk from a few senior Republicans, including one officeholder,” University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato told Newsmax. “Why? They are dissatisfied with the field and hope that at a convention, a deadlock would produce a stronger nominee, such as Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or the like---a candidate who didn't want to run but would be willing to undertake a short general election race.

“I have said the same thing to each one: This is a pipe dream with at best a tiny chance of happening.”

Regardless, the thought has piqued the interest of political correspondents, talk show hosts and the former head of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele.

A recent discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe centered on the troubles of GOP frontrunner Herman Cain, who is reeling after charges of sexual harassment during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association surfaced. Also in the mix is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s inability to so far excite the base and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s stumbles.

NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell wondered who would carry the conservative flag if “Cain implodes.”

“Could it be Newt Gingrich? I would suggest he has so many flaws from his record that that would be a hard sell,” she said. “Is there a scenario? And you know the rules far better than anyone, Michael. Under these new rules, is there some sort of scenario where at the end of the day there could be a brokered convention – but could Jeb Bush come into it or someone else at the end of the day?”

Steele replied that for that to happen you would have “to have a scenario where you have two maybe three people going into the convention that are close in the delegate numbers.

“But what would happen in that situation is that the pressure would be on to really gravitate to one of those folks, to have a fourth person or third person come out of the blue and get the nomination would just upheave the whole thing. Because then you're having a conversation about a Jeb Bush coming in in August to run for the presidency in November.”

Such a scenario has not occurred in either party in the modern era where a system of primaries, caucuses and pledged delegates has supplanted back-room deals and power brokers. While both Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 and Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984 came to their respective conventions without enough delegates, both got enough votes on the first ballot to secure the nomination. Likewise, speculation that the contest between Obama and Hillary Clinton would also lead to a brokered convention did not materialize.

“There hasn't been a truly open, brokered convention since 1952, on both sides,” Sabato said. “You would have to have three or four candidates winning a half dozen or more contests, and then refusing to bargain, instead handing the prize to someone who didn't even compete.”

Echoing Steele, Sabato added, “Somehow I don't think the primary contenders would be happy about that.”

At their 1952 convention, Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson, who, like Christie, turned down many invitations to run. Incumbent President Harry S. Truman chose not to run for reelection that year and candidates included Sens. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., Richard Russell, D-Ga., and diplomat W. Averell Harriman.

Stevenson, then governor of Illinois, had been urged to run for president but refused. However, at the convention in Chicago, Stevenson delivered a widely popular speech and Democrats chose him as the nominee on the third ballot.

While not as dramatic, the 1952 Republican convention, also held in Chicago, involved a lot of brokering. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sen. Robert Taft, R-Ohio, were close in delegate totals until maneuvering stripped Taft of many Southern delegates. Uncommitted state delegates then lined up for Eisenhower and Gov. Earl Warren threw California’s delegates to Eisenhower, a move that gave him a first-ballot win. He won the general election in a landslide.

Can history repeat itself 60 years after Chicago?

“As far as I know, this isn't beyond the wishful thinking phase,” Sabato said. “It is not an organized effort. How could it be?”

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