This is where the journey begins: The Republican party will assign 2,472 delegates through a state-by-state series of caucuses and primaries between February and June. To win the nomination, a given candidate requires a simple majority, or 1,237, of the total. The states holding their contests before March 15 are required by party rules to dole out their delegates proportionately, meaning 51% of the vote translates to the same percentage of the state’s allotted delegates.
Then as an “added feature”…… the candidate(s) must pass “Rule 40”. This is a bylaw, added in 2012, states that any potential nominee must “demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight or more states.” Further, this “Rule 40” is just temporary since the RNC will vote on a new rule at the convention in 2016 and could again change the number of states. In other words it is more or less a movable target, subject to the whims and votes of the RNC. The RNC’s Rule 40 establishes the rules to actually be eligible to be nominated. To do so, candidates have to present signatures of support from the majority of delegates from eight or more states. In other words, the most candidates that could be considered eligible for the nomination is six (six times eight being 48 and there being 50 states). The fewest candidates that could be considered eligible for the nomination is . . . zero.
Currently, businessman Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are the Republican Party’s national front-runners. The large field behind them, however, makes it possible that no one will emerge with a lead sizable enough to win on the first ballot. If that happens we have a contested convention and possibly a brokered nominee. For example, if candidate A gets 1000 delegates, candidate B gets 1000 delegates and candidate C gets the remainder…… you will have a brokered convention because no one candidate has reached 1,237 votes.
The Republican Party has a detailed set of rules that guide how it operates. A number of those rules deal specifically with the convention, including delegate disbursement and so on. But we’re going to focus on the actual voting process.
In rough outline, it goes like this.
- Rule 29: Each delegate gets one vote. If the delegate holds two voting positions, he or she still gets only one vote.
- Rule 16: If delegates vote for someone besides the candidate to whom they are bound, those votes aren’t recognized.
- Rule 37: States are called to vote in alphabetical order, but they can skip announcing their vote until later in the queue. The chairman of the state party announces the number of votes for each candidate.
- Rule 38: States can’t decide to cast all of their votes for whomever the majority of delegates back.
- Rule 40: If, after all of the states (and territories) have announced their tallies, no candidate has more than 50 percent of the delegates’ votes, “the chairman of the convention shall direct the roll of the states be called again and shall repeat the calling of the roll until a candidate shall have received a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the convention.” (Emphasis added.)
If after all of the voting no one wins, the delegates will keep voting until there’s a majority. And that’s where the deliberations come in. Now the real “horse trading” begins…… There are some really interesting combinations, but suppose you have 2 candidates A and B. And then suppose that both have the same amount of delegates BUT only candidate B has majorities in eight states? This is unlikely, however, if it does happen he party can just change the rules.
State rules vary on the point at which committed delegates can change their minds. Candidates can release their delegates to vote for whomever they want. Often, delegates are allowed to switch their votes if their bound candidate sinks below a certain level of overall support. (In California, it’s 10 percent, for example.) But keep in mind that there are also those unbound delegates wandering around. They can vote however they want.
In other words, you — the voter, have little to say in the process. Never fear……. David Frum (political writer and intelligentsia) notes, it’s hard to imagine a “brokered convention” when there is no such thing as political “brokers” any more. Elected delegates to a convention aren’t going to be swayed by political leaders deciding the nominee in a backroom. It is probably a daydream or fantasy. Before the era of presidential primary elections, political party conventions were routinely brokered. And, for the most part “brokered conventions” resulted in loser conventions for the political party hosting this event. The last winning U.S. presidential nominee produced by a brokered convention was Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932.
In addition the process is a loser on all counts. First, it is difficult to get to this point since as the primary season rolls along….. the candidates pick up steam and the voters jump on their “bandwagon”. Second, it creates hard feelings which result in negative publicity. AND in this age of social media…. that might be the worse thing possible. A “Brokered Convention’s” worse enemy is being exposed to the “light of day” which includes 24 hour news cycles on competing channels, pod-casts, cell phone cameras and videos, etc… No one wants another floor fight like the one between the delegates of Robert A. Taft (R-OH) and Gen. Eisenhower developed during the 1952 Republican National Convention over the seating of Georgia delegates —- or maybe they do….. some may consider it entertaining!
For Republicans in 2016, how they choose their nominee may be more important than the actual nominee. Any attempts at the convention to freeze out the unconventional candidates will carry enormous cost for Republicans.