The Republican convention in Tampa in August will not feature smoke-filled
rooms and a brokered nomination for president.
The only smoke produced will come those delegates and media who enjoy
cigars. Those smoke-filled rooms will be far from the convention floor.
(Tampa is a center of U.S. cigar production.)
Well before Tampa, Mitt Romney and his political team will have taken
complete control of the convention. My conservative tallying has Mr. Romney
at a minimum of 1250 delegates at the end of the primaries, more than a
hundred more than he needs for a first ballot victory. That's a minimum.
The actual number will probably be closer to 1400. Mr. Santorum, if he wishes,
may be placed in nomination. Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul, not having won at
least five states each, are not eligible by the rules to be placed in nomination at
the convention. Unless Mr. Romney's team are complete amateurs and
incompetents, they will design that first ballot to end promptly and orderly,
make all the other presentations on the four-day program enhance the Romney
campaign agenda and themes, and have their nominee make his acceptance
speech timed precisely to be delivered at prime time.
As for speeches by Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum, that should
depend on how they act between now and convention time. At a minimum,
they should warmly endorse Mr. Romney. As history has demonstrated, a
nominee who allows a less-than-enthusiastic former opponent to speak at
the convention is courting disaster. Senator Ted Kennedy's speech at the
1980 Democratic convention, after a bitter nominating battle between him
and a renominated Jimmy Carter, overshadowed the unpopular president
who then lost to Ronald Reagan that November. Incumbent President
George H.W Bush let his major opponent for the GOP nomination in 1992,
Pat Buchanan, make a major speech at the convention that year (the so-called
"cultural war" speech). That speech is generally credited to contributing to
Mr. Bush's defeat in November by Bill Clinton because it turned off so many
independent and centrist voters from the GOP candidacy.
(SIDE NOTE: I was present on the floor of that 1992 convention when Mr.
Buchanan made that speech (having just obtained a one-hour floor press
pass), and distinctly remember how inflammatory it was. I had met
President Bush's son George W. Bush five years before, and saw him on the
convention floor, trouble-shooting for his father, while Buchanan was
speaking, and distinctly remember him telling me how upset he was at
While Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul have already muted their criticism of
Mr. Romney, and appear to have accepted the likelihood of his nomination,
Mr Santorum has not done so. It's a free country, and Mr Santorum has the
right to make a complete political ass of himself, something at which he
seems quite successful. Unless Mr. Romney and his convention team are
suicidal, they won't let the former Pennsylvania senator near the podium in
Tampa. (They could send him to a smoke-filled cigar store in Tampa to
huff and puff the local wares.)
As President Obama and his convention team will almost certainly
demonstrate in Charlotte, North Carolina a week after the GOP convention,
these events are totally-choreographed public relations shows for the
nominees of their party. The Democrats have already shortened their
convention by one day, and the remaining three days will undoubtedly
showcase Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden as faultless champions for the course
of America's next four years. Four years ago in St. Paul, Mr. McCain and
his team showed how this can be done. Mr. McCain's primary opponents,
Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee did not speak in prime time, and when
they did, it was brief and in warm support for McCain. Mr. McCain lost in
November, but it was not because of the GOP convention in St. Paul in
The idea of a brokered convention in Tampa was an illusion. Mr. Santorum
apparently still believes it can happen. His illusion has now become a
delusion, and he has increasingly become a figure of political ridicule. From
the beginning I said he was not ready for prime time, that his rise came
about solely because he was the last social conservative standing.
Now virtually everything he says about Tampa and Mr. Romney is self-parody.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.