Posts Tagged jeb bush

Kingmaker? Pennsylvania’s Delegation Influential in a Brokered Convention


Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, held in late April after more than half of the other states have already voted, means residents of Penn’s Woods generally have little impact on the selection of the nominees of the two major political parties.  Legislation has been proposed to move the primary to an earlier date, however, it is unlikely to happen in time to take effect for 2016.

But, there is a scenario in which Pennsylvania’s delegation to next year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio could play a major role in the selection of the nominee.  That would be if the primary season fails to yield a candidate with a majority of delegate votes triggering a rare brokered convention.

In recent decades the quadrennial nominating conventions have been little more than stage managed coronations of the candidates who already had collected enough delegate votes through the primary and caucus process.  The last time a convention really mattered was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford arrived in Detroit still locked in a battle with Ronald Reagan for the nomination.  Ford prevailed, but was unable to shake off the after effects of the Watergate scandal and lost the General Election to Jimmy Carter.

Prospects for a brokered GOP convention in 2016 grow greater every week.  That’s the frequency with which candidates are entering the presidential contest with 15 or more candidates ultimately expected to compete.  A recent Quinnipiac University poll found five of those candidates – Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee – all tied for the lead with 10% of the vote each.   It could be argued those candidates constitute a top tier, but clearly no one has taken command of the race.

It is, of course, still early in a climate where even one or two news cycles can completely alter the political landscape, but the Republican bench is so deep every one of the top five, and just about all of the others, can lay claim to a base constituency and make the argument that they are qualified to become the next president.  Few, however, can outline a plausible path to the nomination.

The winnowing process could still occur, especially if one candidate manages to win two out of three of the earliest contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then go on to dominate the so-called Super Tuesday primaries.  But, 15 candidates with diverse geographic and ideological bases within the party presage a Balkanization of the vote and the allocation of delegates.

If the Republican Party arrives in Cleveland with no one candidate having a majority of votes, a quirk in Pennsylvania’s delegate rules could put the commonwealth’s delegation in a strong position to be the king-maker.  Unlike most other states, all of Pennsylvania’s delegates run uncommitted.  Republican delegates are elected by congressional district, with an additional group selected by the Republican State Committee.  Pennsylvania will have 71 delegate votes, making it the seventh largest delegation.  While candidates for delegate can express support for a particular presidential candidate, they are not legally bound to vote for that candidate at the convention.

This means Pennsylvania’s delegation will arrive on the shores of Lake Erie technically uncommitted to any of the candidates and free to wheel and deal with potential nominees.  Assuming any degree of unity among the delegation, Pennsylvania’s delegate votes could be enough to put a candidate over the top or at least provide major momentum in a brokered scenario.

It would take all the stars aligning for this to play out, but in a year where there are an unprecedented number of candidates participating in a long string of primaries and caucuses anything is possible.  If it does come down to a brokered convention Pennsylvania might once again become the Keystone State.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Why is the Party of Free Enterprise Afraid of Competition?


An early, but unofficial, entry into the 2016 Presidential race by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush jump started the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.  National party leaders are working hard to see that it also ends early. This in the mistaken belief that a battle lasting deep into the primary season harmed Mitt Romney in 2012 and would likewise handicap the party’s 2016 nominee.

The theory is hold the intra-party skirmishing to a minimum, identify the nominee early, give the new standard bearer more time to organize and prepare for the General Election campaign.   The problem with that reasoning is that it cuts voters in most states out of the candidate selection process depriving the ultimate nominee of a solid base of support.  It also puts an early bullseye on the nominee giving Democrats more time to attack – which is precisely what Barack Obama did in the spring and early summer of 2012.

Those unwilling to admit the party nominated a deeply flawed candidate in 2012 point to the supposed “lengthy” primary battle as a reason for his defeat.  The fact is Mitt Romney essentially wrapped up the nomination by mid-April before primary voters in some of the more populous states, including Pennsylvania and California, went to the polls.  Four years earlier, John McCain closed the door on Romney and a large field of candidates by mid-February.  Despite the early end to that primary season McCain also went down to defeat.

There is an argument to be made that contests lasting deep into the primary season better prepares the candidate for the fall campaign.  In 2008 it was June before Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to Barack Obama.  Obama, of course, beat McCain who had the luxury of having wrapped up his nomination months earlier.  In 1980, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush battled until late May before Bush ended his quest for the nomination.  In fact, Reagan lost many early primaries that year before finding his footing, emerging victorious and eventually defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter in November.

The real reason the establishment wants to truncate the nomination race is so that it can exert more control over the ultimate nominee.  A shorter primary and caucus season makes it more difficult for a grassroots candidate to emerge and plays to the advantage of those with the party machinery behind them.  This, of course, makes it far less likely a candidate from the conservative wing of the party claims the nomination.

To push for such a scenario ignores the central lesson of the 2012 nomination process.  Voters four years ago made it abundantly clear they did not want Mitt Romney as their nominee.  Romney was not a front-runner until very late in the process.  As alternatives to Romney emerged his campaign destroyed them one by one in an electoral version of whack-a-mole.  Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, each surged to the top of the polls only to be destroyed by Romney.  Even after all of that, the movement of just a few thousand voters in the Michigan and Ohio primaries would have given the nomination to Santorum.

Voters wanted anybody but Romney, but the establishment prevailed, ended the contest halfway through the primary calendar and anointed a candidate who went on lose an eminently winnable general election.  The GOP lost the presidency in 2012 not because the primary season went on too long; it lost because it ignored the message being sent by voters.

Headed into 2016 the national GOP hopes to arrive at a nominee early in the year.  With a large field of highly qualified candidates that would be yet another big mistake.  It is important that voters all across America get the opportunity to participate in the process.  The goal should be to nominate a candidate who can win, not to nominate a candidate quickly.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org).

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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