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Is There A Republican Cinderella? Probably Not

Good Question: Is A Brokered Republican Convention Possible?
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Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich (credit: CBS)

Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich (credit: CBS)

Alan Gionet Good Question
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Written by Alan Gionet DENVER (CBS4) – Back in 2008 I got a story assignment. What’s the potential of a brokered convention in Denver? Remember that?

The long primary and caucus battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was shaping up to look like it would become a real knock-down, drag-out winner-take-all during the Democratic National Convention. Except it wasn’t — didn’t get there.

Now this year’s slate of Republican candidates is leading to a similar batch of questions.

“Well, I’m disappointed in the slate of candidates that are running right now,” one of the Republican voters CBS4 talked with in Greenwood Village said.

“All they do is criticize each other,” a woman said.

“But maybe somebody from the outside would do a better job than some of these people,” another said.

So the sentiment is there.

“I think those in the media want that because the media wants to carry on the drama as long as possible. And what would be more dramatic than a brokered convention in Tampa, Fla.,” another Republican voter said.

That may have been true in 2008 and it may be true again.

“For that to happen you’d really need no candidate to go into the convention with a majority of the delegates,” said Seth Masket, professor of political science at the University of Denver. “That’s when the horse trading will begin.”

But Masket thinks it’s a real outside shot.

“We really don’t have much experience with this in the modern era,” Masket said.

That’s because there’s been a big change in the way delegates are picked and conventions are run in recent decades.

There was a time when power brokers in the Republican and Democratic parties played the kingmakers.

“And that’s part of the issue with the brokered convention,” said state Republican Party Chair Ryan Call. “It used to be the party leader’s governors, members in Congress held significant sway over their delegations. But our process, especially here in Colorado, is very grass roots.”

The last time the Republicans chose their nominee at their convention was 1948. The last time for the Democrats was 1952. The last candidate chosen at a convention to actually win the presidency was Franklin Roosevelt.

“The Republican party has made a couple of minor changes to our rules to actually allow candidates to run as pledged delegates,” Call said. “In years past all of our delegation was essentially unpledged.”

Those were the days. But the current system is kinder to candidates that take the time to run, raise money and wear out the shoe leather on the campaign trail.

“I suppose there’s an outside chance another candidate could jump in at that point if the party decides that no one of these candidates could get the party behind him we need to find yet another person,” Masket said. “But then that person would have a real disadvantage in that no one had done any campaigning for them up to that point.”

Organization is more crucial than even in modern politics.

“They would face a sea full of delegates and activists who had really actively campaigned for someone and except him … or her,” Masket said.

So the chances of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels or Sarah Palin emerging as a Cinderella at the convention; “Exceedingly remote,” Call said. “It would be great to watch, it would be incredibly exciting, but I don’t think it’s very likely.”

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