Tony Blankley joins the chorus today, beginning with the premise that “The Republican Party primary so far has been an exercise in none of the above.” This, notwithstanding that no votes have yet been cast.
In their turns, Sen. McCain, former Mayor Giuliani, former Sen. Thompson and former Gov. Romney seemed to be or seemed about to be front-runners — only to fall back as the party’s likely voters got a sharper look at each of them. […] Now former Gov. Huckabee — for the moment surging to the front — is on the receiving end of withering intraparty fire applied with a rhetorical violence usually reserved by Republican polemicists for a Clinton or a Kennedy.
There has never been a time when Romney was a front-runner in national polling, although he led in both Iowa and New Hampshire for months. Then again, he was spending millions of dollars running ads while others kept their powder dry. As for Huckabee, he was an unknown who’s suddenly jumped into contention; it’s natural that he would draw fire (for reasons discussed earlier).
It is as if each faction of the Grand Old Party feels a stronger passion to defeat its intraparty rival factions than to defeat the Democrats in November. This maximum instinct to deny victory within the party may be a sign of a philosophical rebirth (as in the Goldwater nomination and campaign of 1964), but it is also a sign of a party likely to lose the next general election.
The party has an uphill climb to retain the White House, given the low esteem in which the current occupant is held. But we’ve seen nothing more bitter on the GOP side of things than with the Democrats. The difference is that they begin with a legitimate favorite, Hillary Clinton, while there is no obvious Republican whose “turn” has come.
Yes, the Republican Party has factions. That’s a problem that has mostly plagued the Democrats in recent years but, after eight years of Bush, they’re angry and united in a desire to win. The GOP, by contrast, is trying to find itself after eight years of a president that has failed in many ways to live up to his conservative ideals and after having just lost the majority in Congress.
The fact that Republicans have not sorted out, weeks before the first meaningful vote, who their nominee is hardly means that they won’t do so by and by. Indeed, Blankley argues no argument at all in that direction and expresses much of the same wistfulness that has so many candidates still viable.
NRO’s David Freddoso offered a somewhat plausible “brokered convention” scenario last week. Essentially, because the process is so front-loaded, voters won’t have the usual signaling mechanisms to help them sort out which candidates can potentially win, meaning that they’ll be more likely to simply vote for the candidate they prefer.
May it be so. Still, a look at the Republican primary calendar shows that there are six voting days in seven states between January 3 (Iowa) and February 1 (Maine) which will help sort the wheat from the chaff before the mega-load of votes in 22 states on February 5.
If and only if all five of the major candidates wins a significant contest during that first month does the brokered convention talk get interesting. My strong guess, though, is that Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson will drop out if they haven’t won something major by then. Further, if Huckabee doesn’t win Iowa and then follow up with strong showings elsewhere — or a win in South Carolina — he’s finished, too.
Rick Brookhiser admits that “I have been writing about conventions professionally since 1976, and following elections since 1968. Every cycle, the breathless pieces on the brokered convention come out. It never happened in the last 39 years, and it won’t happen next year. When candidates lose a few, their money dries up, and the madness of crowds takes over.”
I think that’s right.
Also, it’s worth noting that there’s some brokered convention talk among Democrats, too. While Hillary Clinton is the clear front-runner, Barack Obama is giving her all she can handle — and now John Edwards is surging in Iowa, potentially shaking the race up even further. Chris Bowers discussed it back in April, explaining well why the selection process — and in particular the Super Delegate phenomenon on the Democratic side — makes it incredibly unlikely.