Brokered Convention

March 14th, 2012

Inspired by the GOP attempt to redefine what the term “brokered convention” means.


“I wanted a brokered convention. That was one of my goals… A little chaos is a good thing, particularly in a system that tends to be moribund.” – Michael Steele interview with Mother Jones


“To be clear, I have never said it was mine or the committee’s goal to create a brokered convention. We effectively lengthened the process and allowed for more proportional voting which had nothing to do with who runs or how they would run their campaign. And on that point we could not predict this outcome.” – Steele in a later email to the Huffington Post backing away from that quote


“A brokered convention does not mean a third person [comes in and gets the nomination]. A contested convention is with two or three guys or gals within two-to-three hundred votes [who] have to negotiate their way. That excitement is healthy for the party and delegates are actually involved in the process.” – More Michael Steele from the Mother Jones interview (released after the original article)


“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what a brokered convention is. A brokered convention is where a third party or a third candidate comes in because no one is able to get the nomination. You’ve got three individuals at least who are within striking distance of the nomination right now. So a contested convention is more like what this is going to look like, particularly given the fact that even if you give Romney all the remaining states that are winner-take-all, the rest of them are proportional. He’s gotta be pulling 50% to 60% of the vote in those states, and that’s not going to happen. So you’re looking at the possibility of all three of these gentlemen getting into the front line in Tampa and having to negotiate one of them getting the nomination.” – Michael Steele this morning on MSNBC


“There’s not going to be a brokered convention where some new person comes in. It’s going to be one of the four people already running.” ” – Mitt Romney on 3/06/12


“By the way, don’t call it a brokered convention. That’s what the media and the Democrats will call it because it implies there are brokers. Call it a contested convention because that’s what it will be, contested.” — Peggy Noonan quoting an unnamed “sage old pol” and “veteran former GOP governor”


“A brokered convention would see a new candidate—someone other than Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum—enter the remaining primaries or parachute in during the convention (if no existing candidate has secured a majority of delegates). In backroom deals, either based partly on the strength of his late primary performances or only on the discretion of party leaders, he would become the nominee. A contested convention, on the other hand, would see no dark horse enter but none of the existing candidates arrive in Tampawith a 1,144 majority of delegates. Lots of wheeling and dealing would ensue, and after several ballots a nominee would emerge from the four current candidates. Is either scenario likely? Let’s put it this way: The odds are greater that there’s life on Pluto than that the GOP has a brokered convention. And while there’s a better chance of a contested convention, it’s still highly unlikely.” – Karl Rove 2/23/12in the Wall Street Journal


“A brokered convention refers to a situation in the presidential primary and caucus process where there are not enough delegates obtained for a single candidate to obtain a majority for the presidential nominating convention. Since no candidates receive enough votes on the first ballot to win the nomination, the convention is brokered through political horse-trading and multiple ballots.” – dictionary


Redefining words is something Republicans like to do,

Regardless of whether or not the new definition is true.


After saying some unfortunate things about a brokered convention,

Michael Steele is now joining in to quell the dissension.


The long-used term has a negative connotation,

In large part because it’s such an aberration.


So Republicans are now trying to impose a new word,

Hence the explanation MSNBC viewers this morning heard.


But a brokered convention is looking more and more likely to take place,

So whatever you call it, it’s something the GOP may be forced to embrace.


For the last month, Karl Rove, Michael Steele, and other Republicans have been trying to redefine the term “brokered convention.” That suggests to me that no matter how much they protest it won’t happen, they think it’s getting more and more likely. So, they want to replace the old term, which has a negative connotation (and which they’ve been denying the possibility of), with a new, more neutral term. Voila: the “contested convention.”

Brokered is brokered, whether the result of that brokering is to chose one of the remaining candidates, or bring in a new one. Still, Steele’s statement does suggest that maybe my prediction is not correct that the GOP Establishment is trying to keep its options open to bring in a surprise White Knight. Or, maybe Mike is just not in the loop anymore…

(PS to readers: In addition to supporting his Party’s redefinition, it’s also possible that Steele is trying to protect himself from criticism that he caused the current GOP mess, since he oversaw the redesign of the primary rules which has led to it. So, Steele’s effectively saying: “Don’t blame me. Everyone’s afraid of brokered conventions, but we’re not going to have one of those.”  If you can think of another explanation or have a view on the matter, please leave a comment below or Tweet me.)


Here’s Steele’s explanation (at the 2”30 mark) of the difference between a contested and brokered convention this morning on MSNBC.

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Here’s Meet the Press’s 2/26/12 panel discussion of the possibility of a brokered convention. As Chuck Todd points out, it’s already impossible for a new entrant to win the delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

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Update: Here’s perhaps the best analysis of the possibility and impact of a brokered convention (including a reference to a possible Santorum-Gingrich deal): Kermit the Frog 3/14/12 evening on The Colbert Report.

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