The Collective
Tuesday, December 18, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Ed Morrisey opines about The Two Words That Strike Fear Into The GOP

They aren’t Hillary Clinton, nor are they Ron Paul. The two words that will haunt the early primary states are “brokered convention”, and we may be heading towards it.

Well, Ed and the GOP can relax, as I just don’t see it happening. Would it be interesting to watch? Absolutely. Will it happen? Not a chance, barring a highly unlikely set of events.

Ed is right we he states:

Republican primary voters have sent a very clear message: they have not found their candidate. After a remarkable full-year, full-court press, the top five candidates remain bunched together closely enough to have a serious shot at winning at least one of the early states. No one has broken out of the pack on either a national or state-to-state basis, and all of them have serious obstacles to uniting the conservative coalition, fair or unfair.

But here’s the deal, and it is one that hardcore political junkies to accept sometimes: despite the seemingly eternal campaign, we are still in the preseason here. Until the voters start voting, and the candidates start to feel the effects of support (or the lack thereof) will we really be able to say if there is as much of a lack of clustering as there appears to be at the moment.

We go through some version of this speculation practically every four years, as there is some point (prior to votes being cast, usually) wherein it just seems like there is no way that the voters are ready to coalesce around a candidate. Remember back in 2024 where it seemed as if it could be Dean, Kerry,or Edwards? (or even Gephart or Clark?). Yet, after Iowa Gephart was gone and Dean was mortally wounded, and New Hampshire finished Dean off. Soon, there was only Kerry (who had looked dead a few months earlier).

For a brokered convention scenario to emerge there would have to be solid (if not unshakable) support for a number of candidates along regional lines/specific states in a way that the delegates would balance out, and continue to stay balanced, contest after contest. The closet thing to a regional advantage that any candidate has is Huckabee in the South (and that is not a sure thing at this point), and while Romney and Giuliani may have some allegiances in the Northeast, neither has a rock-solid lock. Indeed, and more to the point, no one has a clear lock on much of anything, meaning that the likelihood is that someone will start to quickly lose the soft support that they currently have, making way for consolidation around a candidate over the course of the first several primaries. The fact that there are lot of choices and no clear frontrunner really isn’t the best scenario for a brokered convention, even if that seems to be the caes at first blush. A brokered convention would require two or three candidates with a strong base that would be unlikely to shift until the bitter end. There are no candidates who have supporters of that type. As such, there is plenty of room for defections and changed minds.

Further, and this is key: most of the GOP state-level rules allocate delegates on some version of a winner-take-all basis. This means that even if support for candidates is split, plurality wins will start to lead to accumulation of delegates. Even if different candidates are splitting wins, someone will start winning larger states and accumulating more delegates. It would take a rather odd (and improbable) patchwork of wins to different candidates for the delegate counts to remain roughly equal over the course of several state contests. The majority of the state GOP delegate selection processes award a certain number of delegates to the winner of the most votes at the state level and then allocate the rest to the winners of the most votes per congressional district. And while the by-district model just allow for the splitting of some delegate in a state, the typical trend is for the candidate with the plurality lead statewide to normally also have a plurality in most of the Congressional districts as well.

For example: if I go to a state with a winner-take-all allocation, and I win the state with 27% of the vote, with the remaining vote split amongst numerous candidates, I come away with 100% of the the delegates. Yes, the party is still split on its preference, but I have made a large stride towards my goal of winning the nomination, while my compadres have gained nothing. Even in a case wherein I win the state and split some of the Congressional districts with the others, I am still making greater progress towards my goal of a an absolute majority of delegates. Again, the math tends to catch up with the guys who are coming in second, third and fourth. Money dries up. Voters begin to doubt that their guy can win and shift to their second and third choices.

Put another way: even if the top three, four or five candidates continue to have some significant support with GOP voters, the allocation of delegates will not directly mirror those poll numbers because the delegates are not allocated in any way that is perfectly proportional to support–far from it. Candidates will start to lose, and losing will bolster others, and a clear winner will emerge.

As such, the odds of a brokered convention are quite low.

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8 Responses to “A Brokered GOP Convention? I Seriously Doubt It”

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    1. MSS Says:

      Low, yes. But if it takes a while for it to get down to three candidates, you might be overestimating the consistency of statewide and district-level pluralities. (I do not know which states, aside from California, are using district level allocation.) If some major states are “won” by vote shares in the upper 20s to mid 30s, and allocation is district-based, there won’t be any sweeps.

      Again, I agree the odds are low. But they may be higher than they have been at any recent process in either major party. Of course, notwithstanding the pundit-inspired scenarios in various seasons past, those odds were near zero.

      So, what is it this time? Ten percent? Higher? Short of likely, but hardly impossible.

      And, yeah, I am really rooting for this!

    2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

      Oh, I agree that the chances are better than zero, but I would place then at less than 10%.

      The chances are better for the GOP this year than for any other under the primary system, to be sure.

    3. The Swallows Return to STUPID-CAPISTRANO § Unqualified Offerings Says:

      [...] Looks like Ed Morrissey is the first blogging dog to chase the “brokered convention” stick this cycle. Usually it’s Kevin Drum. (Usually, Jim? There’s been, like, one presidential election campaign since political blogging exploded. And are you sure it was Kevin Drum? Did you look it up? You know what happened last time you got sloppy with your attributions. Shut up! It was so Kevin Drum!) Steven Taylor offers a thousand syllogisms where a belly laugh would do. Cliffsnotes: There will be no brokered convention next year. [...]

    4. Chuck Adkins » Brokered Convention? Says:

      [...] Others: The Palmetto Scoop, Ross Douthat, PoliBlog (TM), The Huffington Post, DownWithTyranny!, Blog, TPM Election Central and Unqualified Offerings and Many More via Memeorandum SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Brokered Convention?”, url: “” }); This entry was written by Chuck Adkins, posted on December 19, 2024 at 1:35 am, filed under Commentary, Conservative, Opinion, Politics, Republicans, right wing. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. [...]

    5. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » But What About a Possible Brokered Convention? (Tancredo Drops out) Says:

      [...] I guess Tancredo didn’t think he could hang on long enough for the brokered convention: Tom Tancredo to Drop Out of Presidential Race Tancredo, who has aggressively pushed his anti-illegal immigration message throughout the GOP primary race, has not been able to break through in the polls against his better known competitors. He and California Rep. Duncan Hunter typically poll in the single digits behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul in national surveys. Tancredo would not personally confirm whether he will pull out of the race. “I will neither confirm nor deny that report,” Tancredo told FOX News. But he added, “I wouldn’t have a press conference if I didn’t have anything to say.” [...]

    6. R. Alex Says:

      There are at least two things that make this one different and more likely than previous cases. First is the front-loaded primary, which to be honest I don’t give as much weight to. Second, and more significantly, is that almost all of the Republican candidates have a potential ceiling of support.

      When it came to the Democratic nomination in 2024, it would have gone to Kerry, Edwards, Dean, or even someone else like Clark. These were all people (with the possible exception of Dean) that were acceptable to most of the party. The question was which way they should go.

      Looking at the Republican field and all five candidates (with the possible exception of Thompson) are unacceptable to key elements of the party. While it was really easy to imagine Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Clark, or someone else getting the nomination… it’s a lot trickier with the Republican cast this year. It’s not a question of what face to put on the party but rather what the party really is. Compromise is going to be a lot more difficult. All of the main Democratic candidates in 2024 could have gotten 50+% of the delegates, I’m not positive that the same is true for most or all of the big five Republican candidates.

      I’d place the odds at somewhere between 10-25%. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s not nearly as far outside the realm of possibility as previous elections.

    7. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

      The thing is, I would argue that the soft support that all the candidates have makes the brokered scenarios less, not more, likely. If each of the top tier had rock-solid support, then maybe you get a situation wherein voters stick with their guys regardless of what is happening in the contest. However, soft support means that defections are likely (i.e., voters defecting from their current first choice).

    8. R. Alex Says:

      However, soft support means that defections are likely (i.e., voters defecting from their current first choice).

      I would agree if it were a matter of first and second choice like it was for the Dems in 2024. Unlike then, though, half of the game is trying to prevent someone that you don’t like from getting it. That makes it harder, in my view, to cross that 50% threshold.

      It’s possible that each of these candidates can do that and probable that at least one can, but I’m not positive that any particular candidate can keep the “anti-” faction below 50% when all of the blood settles. If 51% really don’t want each of these candidates to get it, we’re probably headed for a deal in Minnesota.

      Unlikely, we both agree, but I don’t believe quite as unlikely as you do.

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