Rick Santorum’s three-state sweep of the Republican presidential nominating contests in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado breathed new life into the search for a conservative alternative to moderate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
It also brought forth speculation that, with no candidate holding a clear majority of delegates at the end of the primary season, Republicans would have a “brokered” convention.
The Republican National Convention process is almost entirely controlled by the inside-the-Beltway Republican establishment. The last thing tea partyers and grass-roots movement conservatives should hope for is a brokered convention.
Such an arrangement would hand over the selection of the Republican nominee to the establishment powerbrokers who are, for the most part, backing Romney and his business-as-usual policies.
If no conservative candidate achieves the 1,140 or so delegates required to secure the nomination before the convention — and after his three-state win it is not at all clear that Santorum can’t do that, despite establishment huffing and puffing to the contrary — conservatives should fight for an “open” convention, not a “brokered” convention.
Conservatives need only reflect back to the 1976 and 1980 Republican National Conventions, where the Republican Party’s inside powerbrokers did everything they could to stymie the nomination of the “unelectable” conservative Ronald Reagan to appreciate that handing the final decision on the nomination over to them would be a disaster.
In 1976 the nomination was in Reagan’s grasp until Clarke Reed, the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, betrayed him and handed the Republican presidential nomination to Gerald R. Ford.
In 1980 Reagan had the votes, but Republican establishment insiders were still trying to broker what they called a co-presidency between Reagan and Ford right up until the very moment Reagan picked-up the phone to call George H.W. Bush to offer him the vice presidential nomination.
The best thing that could happen would of course be that conservatives coalesce behind one conservative candidate, such as Rick Santorum, and provide him with a convincing majority going into the Republican National Convention.
Absent that, grass-roots movement conservatives and tea partyers should be prepared to fight for an open convention, because the Republican insiders who broker conventions will surely hand the nomination to an establishment figure like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush if they don't.
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