Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ugh (Brokered Convention Edition)

The good news is that we're finally past the "new candidate will jump in" season. The bad news is that we're now entering prime "we'll get a brokered convention" season. So as long as we keep getting these arguments, I might as well keep knocking them down. Don't worry, there won't be a deadlocked convention. Not going to happen. Really, truly.

The latest is from Howard Megdal over at Salon (via Goddard). It's based, to a large degree, on a complete misunderstanding of the latest reform to the nomination process, which claims that Republican delegates in early states will be apportioned by proportional representation. But that reform, or at least that interpretation of it, is simply a myth, as Josh Putnam has explained. Only some delegates in early states will be chosen using p.r. A lot of them will still be winner-take-all -- not by state, but by congressional district. Meglal uses Missouri as an example, but in fact only half of Missouri's delegates will be chosen by p.r.

Megdal also puts a lot of weight on the possibility that winnowing won't work this time around. Of course, that ignores the fact that the field has already been winnowed. But of the remaining candidates, only Ron Paul only has a seriously dedicated base that gives him the capacity to keep going and taking a non-trivial share of the vote after the earlier states without having any chance to win. Megdal says that "The same will be true for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry if they stay in the race — and the latter has plenty of cash still on hand." But that's just not how it works. Bachmann, of course, has already tanked in the polls; how is she going to revive after getting drubbed in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina? As for Perry, the cash on hand helps keep him viable in Iowa, but he's going to spend it all, and won't raise a cent more unless he starts showing something for it.

One more thing. Megdal supposes that a deadlocked convention would automatically turn to a blemish-free Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or John Thune, who would exit the convention with momentum to spare and an easy path to victory. This is wrong on both counts. First of all, there are no brokers; most delegates are loyal to the candidate who they were chosen to vote for, and aren't likely to go along with the Bush or Thune plan. Chaos is a far more likely outcome.

And then, post-convention? A totally unprepared candidate chosen in a back-room deal would suddenly have to face the national press in full campaign mode. It's not impossible that could work out well, but ask Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, and others how it's worked out. Oh, if you think they were just the wrong people, look at what happened to nomination contest overnight hits such as Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann in this cycle, or a long list of others going back at least to Gary Hart in 1984 and John Anderson in 1980.  About the best you can say is that it doesn't always end in complete disaster.

At any rate, it's not going to come to that. I increasingly think that the contest will be over by South Carolina, and could well be essentially decided sooner than that, but regardless of that there's just nothing at all so far in this cycle to indicate that there's a reasonable chance of a deadlocked convention.

20 comments:

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, JB. I saw this brokered convention nonsense this morning and was waiting with baited breath for your post on the matter.

    The truth is, of course, that there is almost zero chance the 2012 GOP convention will be brokered. I don't think the primary will take an especially long time, personally.

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  2. party-poopers...

    ...does JB ever wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering if just maybe Newt Gingrich might be a viable candidate all the way to a brokered convention leading to a nominee who loses despite unemployment and growth numbers that should mean total incumbent destruction?

    ...and would that be before or after his nightmare about a blog with images and embedded video and audio and live-updating twitter feeds and no anonymous commenters?

    Happy T-giving to all!

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  3. Another thing that seems implausible about all this is that the dream candidates all seem as flawed and uninspiring as the actual Republican candidates we're currently dealing with. Jeb Bush is, if anything, more establishment-bound than Romney, plus he's inextricably tied to a still-unpopular president. Chris Christie's Big Fat Loudmouth Jersey A-Hole persona doesn't seem like it would wear especially well; John Thune seems like Tim Pawlenty Jr.

    I don't see how any of these people is much of an improvement over the existing slate. In other words, the problem isn't the Republican candidates; the problem is the Republican party.

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  4. I love TN's comments, and they ring very true. I agree with JB on this one, and will add that I think the GOP establishment has already ceded the election to Obama and is participating in this election only to field a team that will be battle-ready for 2016. Even with the economic problems we have, most voters know that Obama came into office with an incredibly herculean task to accomplish. That he hasn't yet completed the task is no surprise, given the complete obstructionism he's faced in the GOP. The GOP has gambled big that their party unity will pay off in 2012, but since the 2010 mid-terms came up such a bust, they have lost that bet.

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  5. The GOP has gambled big that their party unity will pay off in 2012, but since the 2010 mid-terms came up such a bust, they have lost that bet.

    .

    I don't follow. In the 2010 midterms, the R's picked up a once in a century electoral windfall, at the local, state and federal levels. I'd assume they're planning on another strong showing in 2012, and why wouldn't they? They won't have Pelosi to run against, sadly for them, but they'll still have Obama and a string of millstone Obamanomics votes, and that's enough.

    It's important to remember that November 2010 wasn't an embrace of the R's, but rather a rejection of the Left. That dynamic's still fully in play.

    Obama's sitting on Gallup numbers about 10 points below what he'd need for reelection, and there's nothing on the horizon that promises to move those numbers, unless it's down. In fact, had he climbed into the arena and started yammering "don't call my bluff" again, his numbers would be even worse right now. Perry/Gingrich/Romney... does it matter which, really? The electorate wants Obama gone, and any of those stiffs will do.

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  6. Anonymous - Maybe the electorate would prefer Obama be gone, but the Republicans have to offer a credible alternative. In 2004, Americans would've liked to replace George W. Bush, but the alternative was blabbering John Kerry.

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  7. Anon:
    The 2010 midterms were not an embrace of the Rs, but that doesn't mean they were a rejection of "the Left." They were, quite simply, an expression of dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Since a D was president, Ds got blamed. If, somehow, McCain had won in 2008, the Rs would have gotten a shelacking in 2010.

    And the electorate is going to do the exact same thing in 2012, because it's the same thing the electorate has always done. If the economy improves, they will vote for the Dem. If the economy does not improve, they will vote for the R, assuming the Rs nominate somebody credible (which reads as Romney, Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum. Paul & Johnson lose too much of the base. Cain & Bachmann lose independents no matter how bad the economy is, just as Kucinich or Gravel would have lost them in 2008)

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  8. CK,

    Thanks so much. Totally made my day.

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  9. As of 11/23/11, it really doesn't matter who the GOP nominates. They will lose against President Obama. Simply, you cannot beat something with nothing. The Tea Party has made any GOP candidate unelectable on a national level. Barry Goldwater's warnings 20 years ago have not been heeded. Frankly, the past two years have been nothing more than slow suicide for Conservatives.

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  10. Heh, "In the 2010 midterms, the R's picked up a once in a century electoral windfall, at the local, state and federal levels."

    Well I guess that's true in the 21st century.

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  11. Maybe the electorate would prefer Obama be gone, but the Republicans have to offer a credible alternative. In 2004, Americans would've liked to replace George W. Bush, but the alternative was blabbering John Kerry.

    .

    I agree with you. My dog could have beat Bush in '04, but the Left sent up the second of their 3 consecutive stiffs, and managed to lose that election. The 3rd managed to win of course, because his opponent was just as much of a stiff, and Wall Street crashed, and people wanted "hope and change", and filled an empty vessel with that.

    And yes, Obama is being rejected because of what he's DONE... not because of the "economy". Nobody blames Obama for "the economy", even yet today. They blame him for what he's DONE about the economy. He's done Bailouts, Porkulus, Cap & Tax and ObamaCare... which have hurt the economy. That's why Pelosi got bounced, and why Obama is gonna get bounced.

    Pick an R stiff... pull one out of the hat. It don't matter which, because that stiff is your next president. Check Gallup, if you require confirmation of same.

    And please remember, the country ain't embracing your evil Faux News enemies. It is rejecting the Left. This is a direct slap at the Left, for what they've done and not done.

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  12. And as you engage your Gallup analysis, remember that the stiff Bush was at Gallup 48 in 2004. That's a stiff, but it ain't stiff enough to lose an election. But for a lefty, Gallup 48 is doomsday, and Gallup 40 is an urn full of ashes... and I mean against Ron Paul even.

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  13. The notion of some Iron Law of Gallup is utter nonsense.

    Here's a handy tool for comparing approval profiles for various presidents. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-presapp0605-31.html
    My own view is that none of them compares very well at all to Obama's, and that even if one or another did, you wouldn't have the basis for predicting the outcome a year from now. There's plenty of time for Obama to confirm and extend a recent upward trend, to spike high, to collapse, or both, more than once - or to mount a Ford-like charge that falls just short or this time happens to work out - or to generate a landslide victory like Reagan in '84 or to slip back in like Bush '04 - or to do something different from any of those, leaving observers to conjure up new but equally meaningless pseudo-statistical pseudo-arguments in future years...

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  14. Oh yes, Gallup tells the story about incumbent presidents. In about 60 days, on current trajectory, the iron door of Gallup is going to clang shut on Mr. Obama. When that happens, it's audible across the country. You can hear it. I've heard it clang shut twice in my lifetime, once in 1980 and once in 1992.

    Sure, we're going to have a campaign, nominations, an election and all the rest of it. But for the failed incumbent, that stuff means nothing. His fate is sealed in January of election year, when his final report card is graded. That final grade comes with a clang.

    Pick a stiff, any stiff. President Gingrich? Yeah, he'll do. The current stiff's gotta go, afterall.

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  15. You lefties would do well to pick up on what those 2 lefty pollsters are pushing, dump Obama and nominate Hillary. Unlike Obama, she was qualified for the position, and she'd likely blow away any of the stiffs.

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  16. The brokered convention is nothing but a perennial fantasy of media types. They want to cover one.

    If we were going to have a disputed convention, Obama and Hillary would have done it. But even that got decided beforehand.

    The reason we don't have brokered conventions anymore is because the brokers don't want one. That isn't going to change.

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  17. "Oh yes, Gallup tells the story about incumbent presidents. In about 60 days, on current trajectory, the iron door of Gallup is going to clang shut on Mr. Obama. When that happens, it's audible across the country. You can hear it. I've heard it clang shut twice in my lifetime, once in 1980 and once in 1992.

    Sure, we're going to have a campaign, nominations, an election and all the rest of it. But for the failed incumbent, that stuff means nothing. His fate is sealed in January of election year, when his final report card is graded. That final grade comes with a clang.

    Pick a stiff, any stiff. President Gingrich? Yeah, he'll do. The current stiff's gotta go, afterall."

    I have read and re-read this but still have no idea what any of it means. Clang clang goes the trolley?

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  18. Three reasons why there won't be a brokered convention:

    1) By the day after the New Hampshire primary (hell, probably by the week before the Iowa caucuses), the field will be down to 2 real candidates plus Ron Paul, per Jonathan's reasoning. Nobody else will have the money to keep on playing.

    2) There will be a much larger delegate gap between those two candidates than there was between Hillary and Obama last time. Even with proportional representation, that was almost impossibly close.

    3) Ron Paul might bag 5% of the delegates. The gap between the two leaders will be much bigger than that.

    Therefore, the GOP primary process will produce a winner.

    Anonymous: looking forward to conversing with you on November 7.

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  19. I always enjoy going back and reading old news after we know how it turned out. The Nation is a good source of predictions, and it is interesting to see which ones turned out and which ones weren't even close.

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  20. Yup, things have certainly changed since November. I would suggest that a brokered convention could be back on the table, if Newt wins Florida.

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