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Going for broke: could GOP convention elect nominee?

2012 March 05

By Julia Michaels, Legislative Research Director, University of Texas, Austin Office 

It’s the eve of Super Tuesday, the day on which the largest number of states holds their primary elections or caucuses. This year 10 states will have contests tomorrow, and given the high number of delegates at stake, the day could prove decisive for one lucky candidate. But what if it doesn’t? What if, come Wednesday morning, all four GOP candidates are still in the game and no clear frontrunner has emerged?

There is a possibility that the final four Republican presidential candidates will face a long, hard slog to the convention, if they choose to run that gauntlet together. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have shown no indication that they will drop out, and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are trapped in a dead heat, battling tooth and nail for every last delegate. At this time, it’s unclear whether or not one candidate will be able to pick up enough delegates to win. This uncertainty has sparked speculation of a brokered convention among political journalists and pundits. But just what is a “brokered convention,” exactly?

A brokered convention is a last-ditch effort for a party to select its presidential nominee if none of the candidates have been able to garner enough delegates to secure the nomination. Put simply, it’s a free-for-all: delegates that have been pledged to a specific candidate are released from their commitments and are free to support whichever candidate they choose. Delegates form coalitions among themselves ...

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