Every four years the media salivates at the possibility of a political party’s nominee not being decided by the primary process, with a multiplicity of candidates going to the convention with sufficient delegates to have a shot at winning the nomination. The media drools at the possibility of public and backroom wheeling and dealing until one of the candidates or, even better, a rank outsider becomes the nominee.
The party establishment hates this idea. For them, intraparty squabbling and bargaining over delegates will undermine the image of unity they seek to portray to the nation. Their idea of a successful convention is one that is highly scripted with absolutely no surprises and is meant to showcase the launch of the general election campaign of their nominee.
At one time, the selection of the running mate was revealed only at the convention, providing some scripted excitement but even that tradition has gone away. Party political conventions have become sedate affairs. The nominee is known well in advance of the convention and the running mate selection is also announced prior to the event. The last truly brokered convention was the Democratic one in 1952 though there have been later ones that were contentious and close to being brokered.
This time though, the Republican party establishment is considering the possibility that a brokered convention may be their only chance to stop Donald Trump. If he continues to lead the polls through the primary season, their best bet is to hope that many other candidates remain until the end, thus splintering the vote so that Trump does not command a majority of delegates to win outright. They can then use their networking and behind-the-scenes clout to cobble together a majority of delegates behind someone they favor and whom they think will at least not drag the party down across the board in all the elections, even if the candidate does not win the presidency.
Apparently Republican party leaders have met and are already strategizing along these lines.
Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.
Because of the sensitivity of the topic — and wary of saying something that, if leaked, would provoke Trump to bolt the party and mount an independent bid — Priebus and McConnell were mostly quiet during the back and forth. They did not signal support for an overt anti-Trump effort.
But near the end, McConnell and Priebus did acknowledge to the group that a deadlocked convention is indeed something the party should prepare for, both institutionally at the RNC and politically at all levels in the coming months.
Meanwhile Jeb Bush, the preferred establishment candidate who is floundering in the polls at around 5%, is reportedly considering a different strategy, that of targeting for destruction every candidate except Trump, on the assumption that given a stark choice between just the two of them, Republican voters will prefer him. The evidence in support of this belief is thin, to put it mildly.