Analysis: Could Republicans Have a Brokered Convention?

Disillusion with the current field of Republican presidential candidates, combined with an increase in the number of states using proportional representation, has led some Republicans to talk more about the possibility of having a brokered convention. How likely is it that no candidate will have a majority of delegates by the time the Republican convention starts? Not very likely, a political science professor tells The Christian Post.

There is currently no clear frontrunner in the GOP race. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has remained at a steady 20 to 25 percent, while other candidates have risen and fallen throughout the race. Moreover, the Republican National Committee now requires state with primaries before April 1 to assign their delegates proportionally, rather than through a winner-take-all system.

Combined, these two factors have led some to speculate that no single candidate will have a majority of delegates after all the states have voted. This would mean that the delegates would have to pick a candidate at the convention.

If no candidate has a majority after the first vote, delegates – who are assigned to vote for a particular candidate on the first ballot – would be free to vote for anyone. Some have speculated that, due to dissatisfaction with the current field, someone who has not even campaigned for the position, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, could emerge as the nominee.

That is not very likely, though, according to Marjorie Hershey, professor of political science at Indiana University, in a Thursday interview with The Christian Post. Hershey specializes in the study of political parties and elections.

While the early primary states switched, or stayed, with proportional representation, there are still many states that have winner-take-all primaries after April 1.

“If things are muddled in the early primaries ... by April, the winner-take-all primaries should probably make the difference one way or another,” Hershey pointed out.

“Winner-take-all primaries tend to build momentum very fast. In 2008, for example ... in Missouri, John McCain had won a plurality in the primary, maybe one percent more than [Mitt] Romney and two percent more than [Mike] Huckabee and, given that it was winner-take-all, he got all the delegates in Missouri.”

“That really has a profound effect, when Huckabee and Romney come out with zero, having come real close in the popular vote. That's pretty devastating. It has a negative effect on volunteers. It has a negative effect on people who are likely to donate money, and, the process speeds up considerably.”

The media, Hershey pointed out, also encourages the quick selection of a candidate. “Reporters are just driven by the nature of their own profession to want to predict who is gonna win, because that generates career rewards and that means that there will be bandwagons.”

This bandwagon effect, in which the media suggests who the eventual nominee will be, impacts candidates ability to raise money, and thus remain in the race. “The people who want to give money and are trying to figure out who is going to win, because they would rather give money to who is going to win ... then the money totals will be reported by reporters, there's a big increase in funding for so-and-so, and things start to build.”

Delegates and party leaders are not even interested in having a brokered convention, Hershey argues, because it would be damaging to the party. Brokered conventions present to the public an image that the party is controlled by elites.

Brokered conventions appear “party leader driven and so-called 'boss driven' and feeds into an image that, although it's completely inaccurate, has been so long lasting in the American public. We're all so convinced that there are party bosses out there, even though there aren't. It's really easy to trigger that image and that's the last thing that the parties want, to have their party appear to be a boss party.”