On the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 24 of this week, a private meeting was convened in Manhattan between the Marco Rubio campaign and 200 top donors. Rubio’s top campaign adviser addressed this meeting personally, explaining to the candidate’s big money donors that a plan to contest the Republican Convention is being considered as a means of preventing the convention from choosing Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to be the Republican nominee going into the 2016 presidential election.
Rubio’s top adviser, Terry Sullivan, used a power point presentation not only to delineate the possibility of contesting the Convention but to explain a second possibility in the goal to insure that Rubio is the nominee. According to some of those who were present at the secret meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the first possibility showed exactly how many primaries Rubio needs to win or finish near the top in order to get enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the July Republican National Convention.. The Rubio campaign is already conducting a multi-state blitz, bombarding those states with ads between now and Super Tuesday, which is next Tuesday. But the other possibility is a scenario in which none of the candidates have enough delegates going into the Convention to win. The result would be high drama and a bit of chaos thrown in for good measure.
The latter scenario would result in a contested Convention. The traditional term for this is a brokered Convention, meaning that power brokers from all of the candidates and the central Party elites would retreat to a back room and hammer out a deal that would make one candidate the only one presented to the entire Convention as the potential nominee. The other candidates would go to the floor and encourage their delegates to switch allegiance to the agreed upon contender.
In past years this plan worked due to the fact that everyone got something in return for urging their delegates to vote for the agreed upon rival. These were the days of high drama that kept one on the edge of his seat. Today, Conventions are boring and nothing but a week long campaign ad to crown the nominee who had already been chosen. Party leaders, in both Parties, hate open, brokered conventions because it takes away their power and places it in the hands of the delegates and candidates. But this is the way the process was meant to work from the very beginning. This is American styled Democracy at its best, at least in the political process.
The last time the country witnessed a true brokered Convention was in 1980. Reagan had more delegates than the others, for sure, but had two formidable roadblocks standing in his way — former President Gerald R. Ford, who hated Reagan because he contested his selection as the nominee in 1976, and George H.W. Bush who hated Reagan because of his economic and foreign policy position.
If there ever were a Convention with high drama in modern times, this is it. Reagan was a brilliant negotiator who could make friends out of his enemies better than perhaps anyone else in U.S. history with the exception of George Washington. And he dropped a bombshell that took even the veteran CBS anchor Walter Cronkite by surprise. Reagan offered Ford the Vice Presidential spot on the ticket. And when Reagan went even further and offered Ford a key role and not just a figurehead, Cronkite dubbed it a co-presidency. This has never been seen before in U.S. history.
Ford considered the offer, but turned it down when it began to sink in that Reagan would be the one making all of the final decisions. Thus ended that bit of drama. But Reagan wasn’t finished. He offered the position of running mate to the very rival who hated him the most, George H.W. Bush. Bush had gone around the country telling voters that Reagan’s plan to get the nation out of a deep recession by cutting taxes and government spending was voodoo economics. Other issues were handled by Bush in a similar fashion. Yet when Reagan made it clear that he had to win before he could do anything to help the country, he turned to the rival who had significant support, that is, next to Reagan. It was as if someone flipped a switch when it came to Bush’s attitude toward Reagan, after Reagan offered him the number two spot on the ticket. Bush became Reagan’s biggest fan and cheerleader. Thus, the dream team had come together. Jimmy Carter never had a chance.
Will the country ever witness a brokered, or contested, Convention again? There is no way to know for sure. But it is clear that the Rubio people would like to see it if he cannot win the needed delegates before the Convention.