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The Chances Of A Brokered Convention

Brad Warbiany, one of my co-bloggers at The Liberty Papers, is asking what the chances of a brokered GOP convention are now that McCain can claim a clear Super Tuesday victory:

Huckabee has done very well in the South, which could help him in MS, LA, TX, KY, NC and VA, especially since his momentum will carry him well as LA and VA as they hold primaries within the next week.

Romney has done well in the Rocky Mountain states and Northeast, though I’m not sure how that will translate to the Pacific Northwest and rust belt states. He and Huck could be battling for SD and NE, and I’m not sure where WI will fall.

For McCain, the “matching-funds” issue is still lingering. If he can’t get out of the matching funds and his campaign goes dark, he might have trouble reaching 1191.

As Brad notes, I have expressed skepticism about the chances of a brokered convention and, rather than writing another post on the issue over at TLP, I figured I would do it here and talk about both parties.


As of this morning, McCain is roughly 600 delegates shy of clinching the GOP nomination. Based on the way the calendar is working itself out, and assuming that Mike Huckabee stays in the race (which, after last night), I think he will, it’s clear that McCain will be able to get there.

To see why, let’s look at the primary calendar:

  1. On Saturday, we have Louisiana, Washington, and Kansas. McCain has already won the first step of Louisiana’s complicated election process and it seems like he’ll win this step as well. I haven’t seen any polling data, but Kansas seems likely to go to McCain as well. Washington might be a state that Mitt Romney could win based on winning Northwestern states last night, but he won’t win all of Washington’s 40 delegates if he does.
  2. Next Tuesday, we’ve got the so-called Potomac Primary — Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. McCain is likely to win Maryland and the District and, for the reasons I mention here, I think he’ll win Virginia as well, and get all of Virginia’s 63 delegates, all of D.C.’s 19, and most of Maryland’s 37
  3. The week after that we have Wisconsin. I have no idea what the polls there look like right now, but, again, even if McCain comes in second he’ll still get a share of that state’s 40 delegates
  4. Then, on March 4th, we have two big states, Texas and Ohio, and a total of 228 delegates at stake. McCain will probably win Ohio and could, if Romney and Huckabee split the right, win Texas as well, either way, he’ll do well enough to pick up yet more delegates. By this point, I think we’ll find that McCain will be within 200 delegates of clinching the nomination if he hasn’t done so already
  5. After Texas and Ohio, there’s a contest in Mississippi that Mike Huckabee has a chance of winning but, again, it’s not winner-take-all.
  6. Then, on April 22nd, there’s Pennsylvania — and McCain will win there and the Republican race will be over.

In order for a brokered convention to be possible, either Romney or Huckabee would have to win by substantial margins in all the large states that aren’t winner take all and win all the winner take all states — and there aren’t many of those. And that, I think, is their best case scenario; neither Romney nor Huckabee has any realistic chance of winning the nomination on their own at this point. Things would be different if Romney had done better last night — specifically if he had won California, Georgia, and Missouri — or if there were more viable candidates in the race. But that’s not what we’re facing now and, as exciting as a brokered Republican convention might have been, I just don’t see how it could possibly happen.


Ironically, while the probability of a brokered Republican convention are virtually nil, there’s actually a chance that the Democratic nomination could be brokered — either at the convention or earlier.

Obama and Clinton are evenly matched right now and, barring a dramtic turn of events, that is bound to continue through the Potomac Primary and right up to March 4th — when more the 400 delegates are up for grabs in four states. But the Democrats also have something that the Republicans don’t, the superdelegates. These are 700 or so Democratic politicians and leaders who are not pledged to a specific candidate and not bound by any rules when it comes time to vote on the convention floor. And they’ve also got the lingering controversy over the DNC’s decision to strip delegates from Michigan and Florida as punishment for moving their primaries to a date before Super Tuesday, a total of more than 200 delegates that won’t be seated at the convention.

If the Democratic nomination continues to be close, and Hillary continues with her promise to do what she can to get Florida and Michigan’s delegates recognized at the convention, you can bet that we’ll be witnessing one of the most interesting political conventions since 1968.

2 Responses to “The Chances Of A Brokered Convention”

  1. [...] but as I noted earlier today (see here and here), those openings are pretty small and they would effectively require Romney to run the table while [...]

  2. [...] it was only three months ago that we were talking about a Republican brokered convention.   [...]

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