A February Surprise?

Given the long gap between the winter months Republican primaries and Super Tuesday, could a new Republican candidate launch a surprise candidacy, shake up the race and save the party from its largely disappointing lineup of choices?

No. (h/t James Joyner).


  1. says

    This is probably correct as far as it goes, and I have been saying all along, and still expect, that Romney will be the nominee. What the referenced article assumes is that the nominee must come out of the primaries. This has never been the case, though it has been the rule that parties have aligned with the ultimate candidate during the primary process. The possibility of a deadlocked or “in play” convention is real though, even though it has been decades since one occurred. This year, it has been made more likely by the Republicans’ shift in the rules from winner take all primaries. This means that most of the large field will control some delegates going into the convention, and will be looking to make deals before releasing those delegates. If no candidate has a majority such that they control the convention, the way is open for party regulars to choose the candidate with the best chance in the general election in the proverbial smoke filled room. Personally, I would view this as a positive development – why should a comparatively small group of primary voters with a loose affiliation with the party pick the nominee in the first place?

    If this happened, the way could be open for a candidate such as Governor Daniels to become the nominee (there are other possibilities too). While he had personal reasons for avoiding the two year campaign, he never said he wouldn’t actually want to be President. He is electable and has broad support within the party.

    • Warren Terra says

      shift in the rules from winner take all primaries

      If this were true, dreams of a brokered convention would be far more viable. But it’s my understanding that while the Republicans have implemented some form of Proportional Representation for the early contests, the later contests are permitted to be winner-take-all, and have opted to remain winner-take-all. I believe most of the delegates are still elected in winner-take-all contests.

    • Tangurena says

      I may end up being wrong, but I don’t see a Mormon GOP candidate for President any time soon. The Taliban Wing of the GOP doesn’t consider “them” to be Christians.

      My guess is that Pawlenty will get pulled back into the ring. I suspect he’s regretting withdrawing from the race.

  2. Keith Humphreys says

    Redwave72: I follow your argument other than this point “with a loose affiliation with the party pick the nominee in the first place?”. Primary voters as you know tend to be the most strongly committed members of the party in question, so what do you means by loose affiliation?

    In any event, I see your scenario as highly improbable (maybe you do as well). Take Mitch Daniels, who is better than anyone running and could do it if anyone could, as an example. He would have no ground level organization, no money in the bank, and a whole bunch of angry Republican candidates and voters in his face saying that he stole the nomination.

    • says

      Yes, but primary turnout is terrible. In addition, some states allow crossovers or “open primaries” and with no competition on the Dems’ side, many Dems might vote in the GOP primary. Why should they have a voice in choosing the GOP candidate? In addition, primary voters have usually registered with the party, but that says nothing about whether they are active members, contributors, volunteers, etc. If these were real political parties as they used to be, the regulars should be able to offer their chosen candidate, namely the one they think has the best chance to win. Delegates should be local and state party leaders, elected officials, etc. as they used to be.

      We lost these simple rules of the road after 1968 when Dems recoiled at Humphrey’s control of their convention despite mixed results in the primaries, some of which were then merely “beauty contests.” So, in order to “democratize” the contest primaries were extended to nearly all states and delegates chosen by voters, not active party members, accordingly. if Dem voters wanted this, (and hopeless candidates like George McGovern) fine for them, but I’m not sure why the GOP ever signed onto such a crummy way to pick a candidate.

  3. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    I agree that Daniels could not actively run because of his lack of organization and money. But Redwave, I think, was assuming that he would be drafted, rather than actively run. I don’t think that Republicans would be angry with a convention draft, if they trusted Daniels’ conservative credentials. Democrats might, but not Republicans. Of course, this would pose an interesting problem for Daniels, because candidates usually pivot to the center after their nomination is wrapped up, and Daniels might not have had the time to establish cred among the base voters.

    The only thing missing from your scenario is a third plausible candidate. With only two choices, a plurality is also a majority. Even a few scattered delegates wouldn’t make much of a difference. Ron Paul is the only third candidate I see getting any votes on or after Super Tuesday. And somehow, I have a hard time imagining a Ron Paul delegate being willing to compromise in a smoke-filled room.

    • Warren Terra says

      Ron Paul has a fervently loyal base, but I’m not aware of any evidence he can get beyond it. Vote percentages barely in the double digits, at best, won’t give him the delegates to sway the process, even if they were completely willing to bargain.

      • says

        I certainly don’t think the scenario I pose is likely. But if it continues that no candidate can get nearly half of the primary votes, then a proportional distribution of the delegates could make a brokered convention possible, however unlikely. This would require Paul, Perry, and perhaps Bachman to stay in the race to the convention. Since their delegates will have a hard time going for either Gingrich or Romney, they could search for a draftee capable of uniting the party. It used to be this was not so uncommon in the days when the Presidency sought the man, as opposed to the way it is now. I believe it is also how Truman came to be the VP candidate in 1944, which most insiders realized was tantamount to becoming the next President given how ill FDR was.

        In 1960, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party held out hope to the bitter end that Stevenson would be drafted to make another run, but it turned out that JFK had more control of the convention than they realized.

  4. says

    No. This is not 1912. The delegates aren’t puppets. They’re committed to their causes. The closest parallel to 2012 is likely 1964, with Romney playing he role made famous by Nelson Rockefeller. There was no possibility that Goldwater delegates could have been persuaded to nominate an Eastern Establishment figure. They couldn’t even be made to be polite to the TV people on the floor.

    In 1964, by the way, Rockefeller almost won. If Happy hadn’t had the baby right before the California primary, perhaps he would have. So the parallel doesn’t mean that Romney won’t be the nominee. It does mean that establishment party figures aren’t going to be able to manipulate the convention.

  5. Barry says

    In addition, (a) bringing in a new candidate ~100 days before the election would be a disaster and (b) if (when) Mitt gets the nod, the GOP base will fall in line and vote for him.

    Note 2008, when the GOP had done its d*mnedest to trash itself; McCain got 47% of the nationwide vote, presumably with no real independents voting for him. That leaves no room at all for GOP voters staying home – they went out and voted for their man.

    • says

      Barry, your scenario is by far the most likely. It’s Romney’s turn, he has the best organization by far among the GOP candidates, and needs only to outlast the Gingrich boomlet to clear the way for the nomination. That said, his progress is disappointing to date.

      You are also correct that whoever the nominee is, and certainly if it’s Mitt, he will have no problem obtaining the votes of virtually all Republicans/conservatives, just as Obama will easily pocket the votes of even those on his left curently expressing discontent. The only question is enthusiasm, which is where Obama trounced McCain. The enthusiasm gap has a way of impacting turnout and independent voters who actually decide the election. Right now, it looks like Romney will have the edge in that department, less because of any fire he generates than because Obama’s opponents are singularly fixated on his defeat. But a lot can happen in 10+ months.