Is this how the SEC primary backfires?

Newt Gingrich, seen here after his March 2012 presidential primary win in Georgia, shared thoughts Tuesday about how the GOP's delegate rules could lead to a brokered convention in 2016. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

Newt Gingrich, seen here after his March 2012 presidential primary win in Georgia, shared thoughts Tuesday about how the GOP’s delegate rules could lead to a brokered convention in 2016. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

It doesn’t get much more “establishment Republican” in Atlanta than Newt Gingrich speaking at the Commerce Club to a group convened by the law firm formerly known as McKenna Long and Aldridge. So imagine the crowd’s reaction when Gingrich spoke these two fearsome words: “brokered convention.”

The former House speaker appeared Tuesday in a kind of road show with Democrat Howard Dean for their firm (now known as Dentons). He riffed on the possibility of a floor fight at next summer’s GOP nominating convention in Cleveland because so many early-primary states — including Georgia — must award their delegates proportionally, rather than giving all to the leading vote-getter.

That, Gingrich said, means there’s little incentive for even marginal candidates to drop out of the fractured field.

“If you think you can get 5 or 6 or 7 percent of the delegates, you can come to the convention with some muscle, and you end up with a brokered convention,” he said, describing that scenario as “chaos” and “wild” but also, “as an observer … very cool.”

Very cool chaos could happen if low-polling candidates stick around and prevail in winner-take-all states. “(Ohio Gov. John) Kasich will probably carry Ohio. (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie will probably carry New Jersey,” Gingrich said. “They’re asking themselves, ‘Why would I drop out?’ ”

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before. The specter of a deal being struck in a smoke-filled room to fill out the ticket seems to be raised about this time every four years. But the chances, while still somewhere short of “probable,” are better now than in the past.

“Under the current rules, there is a 1 in 3 chance we’ll have a brokered convention,” offered Randy Evans, one of Georgia’s Republican National Committee members. That’s a significantly better chance than in past contests, even if it’s way too soon to push the panic button.

Still, let’s say the GOP field remains large and splintered all the way to the convention. If so, contrary to the wishes of those in Georgia and other Southern states that sought a larger voice in the contest, the big “SEC primary” on March 1 could wind up rendering them less influential.

At the risk of getting into the weeds, let me explain. It’s not just that Georgia will divide its 76 delegates among any candidates who receive at least 20 percent of the vote, diluting its influence compared to winner-take-all Ohio (66 delegates) or even Arizona (58). You have to keep in mind the convention is where candidates are actually nominated.

In recent years that was a mere formality, because only one candidate was left standing; in 2012, Mitt Romney was actually the only nominee even though several Republicans ran for president that year. But should no clear winner emerge, GOP rules require nominees to have majority support from eight states. Evans predicted none of the proportional, SEC primary states would muster such a majority.

It remains more likely that a candidate or two will break away from the pack, possibly because of a boost from SEC country. But …

Can you imagine the voter outrage should, for example, Donald Trump win a 40 percent plurality but not end up with the nomination because all the other delegates ganged up on him? Or if Jeb Bush were to slog his way to third place, only to wind up atop the ticket?

If you thought the GOP had an outsider/establishment problem now, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
Bruno2
Bruno2

Logical Dude:  Good information, Kyle. It'll be interesting to see what results the delegate count will actually have on the eventual nomination process and nominee. And if this splinters enough to split the GOP into "regular Republicans" and "Libertarian Tea Party" parties.

LD--You know I've always had a lot of respect for your positions even when we disagree.  What are the most important issues for you in the next Presidential election??.  I'm guessing Climate Change will be near the top of your list.......

As for me, fiscal responsibility will again be my most important issue.  And, I'm sure I'll be disappointed once again when the candidates say one thing, then do another after they get in office when it comes to reigning in our budget.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Bruno2 I'll also toss in: 

Healthcare - any attempt to dismantle the ACA without a viable replacement ready is stupid. Too much stupidity by the Republicans may force Single Payer on the US faster than anything the Democrats and the ACA could do, though. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Bruno2 "what are the most important issues?" 


Mostly common sense. Did any of the Republican candidates learn anything from 2012? 

Immigration Reform - If it's not passed within a year, where do candidates fall? 

"Religious Freedom" - If candidates keep on trying to say anyone can discriminate against gays and try to support so-called "Religious Freedom", then they aren't up to the task of leading the US in the 21st century. 

If candidates still doubt climate change, then they have no common sense. If they at least get to the next step of "what should we do about it", then that's well ahead of where most Republicans are now. 

Women's issues - Anyone who supported the government shutdown due to Planned Parenthood funding should be out. It was a manufactured crisis with women at the short end of the stick. Real lives being affected by a political stunt is drastically unAmerican to me. 

Marijuana legalization - whether the Feds start out as "okay with medical" or all out "legalize it all", it's counter-intuitive why marijuana is still illegal. Regulate it and tax it like alcohol. Follow the lead of the states on this one. I also see this as about liberty. 

Fiscal Responsibility? I don't see that from either side, however *compromise* is what is needed most. Neither side will get everything it wants. Tax revenue  MUST increase (as percent of GDP). Spending MUST decrease (as percent of GDP). That's the only way out of the hole we are in. 

Bruno2
Bruno2

 Kyle: Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before. The specter of a deal being struck in a smoke-filled room to fill out the ticket seems to be raised about this time every four years. But the chances, while still somewhere short of “probable,” are better now than in the past.

I guess the pressure to write a "unique" article every day fosters a speculative post now and again, but I don't see a "brokered convention" as a likely scenario right now.  The bottom line is that the election is more than a year away, such that the polling numbers right now don't mean much, as previous elections have shown (Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama immediately come to mind).

Unless Trump or Carson can come up with some credible plans and policies, I don't see either one of them being anywhere near the top next summer.  As I've said before, Rubio would make a good candidate if he would back off some of the far-right wing social positions, e.g. suggesting that abortion laws will be changed.  Thus far, Hillary is running the most effective campaign, so I'm hoping a few of the Republican candidates will up their games.  Having said that, I still think there's plenty of time left for an outstanding candidate to separate him/herself from the rest of the field.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Bruno2 "I guess the pressure to write a "unique" article every day fosters a speculative post now and again, but I don't see a "brokered convention" as a likely scenario right now."

I had no intention of writing about the topic until Newt brought it up at an event I covered Tuesday. So I asked one of Georgia's RNC members, who has had a hand in writing the rules for this primary season, and he said "1 in 3 chance." That's not "likely," but it's far more likely than what such people would normally say at this point in the cycle.

So, yeah, it's speculative, but it's speculation by people who have been around the block a few times.

bu2
bu2

Money will drive out most of the candidates or turn them into total irrelevancy (note that Gilmore is still technically in the race, so is Santorum).  Its just better if it happens sooner rather than later.

Caius
Caius

I would not object to a brokered convention.  Give the winner some practice at political compromise before they have to deal with Congress.  Besides would be terrific entertainment.



LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"you ain’t seen nothing yet"


I'll make some popcorn! 


I can also see the brokered convention be - where the, you know, established GOP people make decisions - the place that Trump and Carson are swept aside as quite unelectable in the 2016 election. Plus, being "outsiders", they keep heckling the established players. 

I thought the delegate count would be most useful, and I wasn't aware that many so-called SEC states split the delegates.  Ohio having all theirs in one lump will give Kasich a bonus if he actually gets his state to vote for him. (Do they see him as a plus or a minus?) 

Good information, Kyle. It'll be interesting to see what results the delegate count will actually have on the eventual nomination process and nominee. And if this splinters enough to split the GOP into "regular Republicans" and "Libertarian Tea Party" parties.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude The delegate apportionment is an extremely complicated matter. Here is a breakdown that seemed too number-y for the OP:

UNBOUND DELEGATES (i.e., those who can vote for whomever they choose): 247 (10% of total)

BOUND DELEGATES (i.e., those who have to vote for who they're supposed to vote for):

Winner-take-all states: 947 (38%)

-- Delegates go to statewide winner: 527 (21%)

-- Delegates go to winner(s) statewide and by congressional district: 315 (13%)

-- Delegates go to statewide winner if he/she gets >50% of vote: 74 (3%)

-- Other (West Virginia): 31 (1%)

Proportional states: 1,276 (52%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally, no threshold: 234 (9%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally to candidates with >5% of vote: 81 (3%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally to candidates with >10% of vote: 131 (5%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally to candidates with >13% of vote (Alaska): 25 (1%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally to candidates with >15% of vote: 249 (10%)

-- Delegates awarded proportionally to candidates with >20% of vote (includes Georgia): 556 (23%)

All of this usually sorts itself out. But usually, there aren't 14 candidates with varying levels of appeal to various factions of the GOP.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude I have two competing fears. 

1) That a completely bad choice will be the leader after the SEC primaries and that they will be the ultimate choice to go against Hillary (yes, assuming Sanders won't make much of a dent in that primary)

2) That after the SEC primaries, 5 or so candidates are so even in delegates that there can be no real front-runner.  I guess this is where the "brokered convention" comes in. I still hope for a strong viable candidate that has common sense to be the leader coming out of the primaries. My hope seems to clash with current reality, though.  

Dusty2
Dusty2

Well,  I won't worry 'cause it will al work out just fine.  (Could anything be worse than the present?)  Well, Hillary YES!! Worse!!


Anyway, Hillary should be looking for another political notch to fill as she leaves Washington.  Just picture JEB waving goodbye to her in his fine gentlemanly ways while citizens give a sigh of relief.. 


Congress will stop fighting.  Our allies will start speaking to us. Iran will say "WHAT!!!" Fidel will say "Please!"  Israel will smile once again.  And Trump will build a new skyscraper to keep busy.


Yep, good times ahead!   .  . 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Dusty2 Will Jeb wave goodbye from the front porch on his home in Florida, because right now it does not appear he is destined for the WH.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Dusty2 Trump must be your guy


Just get him or a Republican in office and everything will be great again right ?


That is the thinking of a 4 year old. 

Dusty2
Dusty2

@Hedley_Lammar @Dusty2


Trump!  Who?  Not for me. and never has been.


YOUR thinking is a bit  behind , like most four year olds. 

MANGLER
MANGLER

The GOP establishment getting upset that a candidate won not by the popular vote, but by a legal technicality ?  Can't imagine where I've seen that happen before.

DMayr
DMayr

Very insightful column. If there is a brokered convention, I suspect this might embolden some candidates to pursue 3rd party candidacies (if only to prolong their day in the sun and increase post election chances for media roles on conservative outlets). This would be an additional finger in the eye of the 'establishment' for some not willing to 'wait their turn'. And I suspect the impact of a conservative 3rd party candidate would be pretty easy to predict...

bu2
bu2

@DMayr

See 1992 where Clinton won easily with 38% of the vote.

DMayr
DMayr

@bu2 @DMayr Let's not forget 2000, where Nader siphoned votes in primarily from Gore. Gore won the popular vote overall, but in several states like FL, Nader supporters ended up costing him the electoral votes overall. And he still barely lost.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Good column Kyle. Con heads will explode and stay home if the nomination is brokered.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Oh, and I predict a lot of Republican voter "outrage."  It's what they seem to do best.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

"Not with a bang, but a whimper"? 

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

You can save a lot of ink by accepting the fact that none of these GOP Yahoos can win a national election.

bu2
bu2

@Eye wonder @Kyle_Wingfield @Finn-McCool

When your prime moment is saying you weren't shirking your job worse than someone else, that's a recipe for a candidacy dead end.  Rubio did NOT want that to be a memorable moment.


Last poll I saw Carson was crushing Clinton and Trump, Fiorina and Bush were beating her as well, but not as badly.

lvg
lvg

Can't wait for GOP convention. May be best circus performance yet . Do away wih the primaries or limit them to four or five  regional primaries during two months before conventions. Rotate which region goes first every four years. Corn and Pig  farmers in Iowa should not be focus of all campaigns and debates every four years.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg I agree something needs to change about the primaries. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@lvg Do what Canada does....limit campaigns to 3 months after selecting a candidate.