Supporters of former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney watch a video about the candidate while waiting for him to give his victory speech at his headquarters at the Westin at Copley Plaza on Super Tuesday. (Ryan Hutton/Boston University News Service)

By Lauren Dezenski
BU News Service

Massachusetts voters today said they had mixed views on the potential for a brokered Republican Party convention, with some seeing the possibility of a dark-horse candidate arising from party in-fighting and others calling it out of the question.

During this election cycle, no one has continuously held front-runner status, and some political observers predict that the trend will continue and lead to a brokered convention for the first time in more than 60 years. Tonight’s election results are adding to the possibility: Mitt Romney, the Bay State’s former governor, has been declared the winner in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Vermont, while his closest rival, former US Senator Rick Santorum, took Oklahoma and Tennessee. Ohio has remained too close to call. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich took Georgia.

Michael Sullivan from Worcester, an administrative assistant at the State House, said the question of a brokered convention was more common than the actual event.

“There’s always talk every four years about a brokered convention,” Sullivan said outside of the State House this afternoon.

Despite the talk, a brokered convention is unlikely because the party internally knows who will get the nomination, he contended.

The Republican Party’s candidate is chosen based upon total delegates—the winner must have at least half plus one of the total 2,286 delegates committed to him by the start of the Aug. 27 convention in Tampa, FL. If no candidate holds that 1,144-delegate majority by the convention’s start, it is considered a brokered convention.

At stake today: 410 delegates, nearly 18 percent of the total delegates available, and Massachusetts alone will offer 41 delegates to August’s convention.

Asked about the possibility of a brokered convention, Jo Blum was blunt. “Not in a million years,” said Blum, a Democrat from Boston and director of government relations at the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

But Richard M. Burnes Jr., another Democrat from Boston, saw potential for a brokered convention.

“I think it would be sad if it came to that because it wouldn’t be the will of the people, it would be the will of the machine,” said Burnes, a venture capitalist.

The delegate disproportion could give way to a whole new candidate. “Maybe Chris Christie,” said Burnes, referring to the New Jersey governor. “He’s an awesome guy.”

Bill Bates, an unenrolled voter from Danvers and district coordinator for State Representative Ted Speliotis, said he believes a brokered convention could happen.

“But I guess historically it doesn’t happen,” Bates said. “It might be interesting, politically, though.”

Relics of the modern political system, brokered conventions feature a bevvy of insider bargaining to help a candidate achieve the minimum number of delegates. Ambassadorships, Cabinet posts, and even the vice presidency are all on the table for those who can deliver the delegates to secure a candidate’s nomination.

Shaking this year’s nomination process, more states have adopted the Massachusetts practice of having delegate representation based on the primary results along with bonus delegates. Bonus delegates are commonly called super delegates.  This change brings the potential to spread delegates over even more candidates, especially with four major contenders still in the field.

Heading into Super Tuesday, Romney led the GOP field with 136 delegates, with Newt Gingrich trailing at 39, Santorum at 19 and Ron Paul at 9. This count factored in delegates given to candidates based on voting results but may not include all of the super delegates.

Delegate counts could further change in states with non-binding primary caucuses or elections, including Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Washington.

Thus, though Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses, if he still remains challenged in the race down the line, members of the Iowa GOP can choose to keep delegates for Santorum, or re-allocate them to another candidate.

The last brokered Republican convention took place in 1948, in which the party nominated Thomas Dewey. The Democrats also had a brokered convention four years later, nominating Adlai Stevenson.

Since then, both parties have been close to brokered conventions, most recently for the Republicans in 2008 when the four candidates, including Romney all seemed poised to equally scoop up delegates.

This election cycle, notable figures are claiming prophecies of a brokered convention for the GOP, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who recently told the Fox Business Network, “We could be looking at a brokered convention.” She added, “I would do whatever I could to help.”

The negative media publicity and the time necessary to campaign for the general election, given little more than two months of campaign time following the convention, make it within the party’s best interest to avoid a brokered convention.

But as Karl Rove recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 23, “The odds are greater that there’s life on Pluto than that the GOP has a brokered convention.”


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