… in truth, I’m actually hopeful about this year’s campaign, because I think it could be unlike anything we’ve seen in a very long time. I think the Republican Party really could wind up with a brokered convention – that is, a race where no candidate receives a majority of the delegates by the end of voting. In fact, it might well be the most likely outcome, if only because no particular outcome is particularly probable.
This race is intriguing not just because of one possible outcome. It is interesting because it is difficult even to formulate a workable theory of the race. Charlie Cook uses a brackets metaphor, while Jim Geraghty and Larry Sabato think of the race in terms of tiers, but all of these have problems. Instead, I see a race that is largely chaotic. It is one where an unusually large number of candidates have perfectly plausible paths, if not to the nomination, then at least to lengthy runs deep into the balloting process.
This is because 2016 really is the deepest GOP field in a very, very long time. In fact, it isn’t even close…
It is, indeed, that. In fact, in terms of talent, the GOP has an embarrassment of riches. Contrast this to the pathetic state of the Democrats – to-be-69 year old Hillary; and if the Democrats pass on her they’ve got the intellectual and achievement powerhouses of Biden, Warren and O’Malley to choose from. None of the Democrats can hold an intellectual or achievement candle to even the weakest GOP contenders. The bad news is that the Democrats are still favored to in in 2016, even if worn-out, hacktastic Hillary is the nominee. But, still, there is that chance the GOP can win, so the GOP contest is worth winning and thus we see the large field of contenders. Will it wind up brokered? One is wary of disputing someone like Sean Trende, but I’ll say there isn’t a snowball’s chance in heck of it happening.
To be sure, Trende is right in that each of the contenders represents a certain segment of the GOP base and as the total vote is widely divided, even someone commanding relatively small support could battle far into the primary process and the sum total of all this is that no GOPer obtains a first-ballot, nominating majority and thus a brokered convention. I just don’t think it will work out that way.
The reason I don’t is because there is Scott Walker, and to a lesser extent, Bobby Jindal. Both are successful governors who battled the left and won. Both are youthful (especially compared to the Democrats), energetic and have great biographies. Both, as far as can be told, haven’t so much of a touch of scandal behind them and neither of them bear strong and public connections to the Establishment money-bags of the party. While both have plenty of good points for both Establishment and TEA Party to like, they also neither frighten overmuch the Establishment nor disappoint overmuch the TEA Party base of the GOP. Both are credible with social conservatives without being tied to positions which can turn off independent voters. They can credibly run as anti-government outsiders while being enough on the inside to garner support from low-information-voters who don’t want a war against government, per se. Each of them is a potential Reagan in the sense of being able to bridge the gaps and form a grand coalition for victory – with Walker having the better shot at this due to his epic battle against – and victory over – the forces of the left. In the end, one of the two men seems likely, to me, to slip in and start winning enough early victories to start an avalanche of support to fall their way in time to secure the nomination on a first ballot.
There are a lot of people in the GOP contest – and one must have at least some sort of egoism to even desire to be President, so a lot of GOPers who can’t win the contest will stay in when they really shouldn’t. A lot of money will be spent – and ink spilled – as various forces and factors try to take control and impose their will. But in men like Walker and Jindal, we have the sort of leaders, I think, who can impose their will upon the throng…just as Reagan was able to do in an equally fractious time (people forget that Reagan was despised by many in the GOP). And I think that either man can beat Hillary, or whomever the Democrats nominate. Not easily. Not in a walk over. But the trick can be done – because both men can unify the disparate elements of the GOP while retaining more than enough cross-over appeal to make an aged Hillary representing a corrupt and worn-out Establishment a loser.