The Green Papers Commentary
 

IF IT AIN'T 'BROKERED', AT
LEAST YOU CAN STILL 'FIX' IT
Could Mitt Romney be kept from the presidential
nomination at the Republican Convention itself?

Friday, March 30, 2012

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
TheGreenPapers.com Staff

Already, with the delegate selection process on the Republican side of things being just about half over now, there is much talk about there being a "brokered" National Convention come the GOP's own such gathering in Tampa come the end of this coming August. But just how likely is such a thing? And, even if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney should reach- or be at least very close to- the number of bound/pledged National Convention delegates he would need to win the presidential nomination this year going into that Convention, might there still be ways for the (if only right now) so evidently strong 'anti-Romney' faction(s) within the Grand Old Party to stop Mr. Romney from gaining that prize in any event?

First of all, let's deal with the very concept of the so-called "brokered" National Convention... what exactly does "brokered" really mean?-- and just who are all these "broker"s anyway?

On top of everything else, it must be understood that what we now would call a "brokered" Convention was- once upon a time- actually the norm: for the quadrennial National Conventions were just about the only time State (and even more than a few county) leaders of the Major Parties all got together in one place at one and the same time. Back in the mid-to-late 19th Century and on into the early-into-mid 20th, the local caucuses and higher-tier conventions on, and below, the State level were principally- where not also so simply- all about choosing the actual persons who would fill the delegates' chairs on the floor of a National Convention and not all that much, necessarily, about whom said delegates from whatever State would most likely be supporting for the presidential nomination to be made at that Convention!

Sure, there were regional and sectional favorites for the Presidency within the Party to whom a healthy chunk of the National Convention delegates from a particular State in that given region or section of the country were expected to give at least their initial support; there might also be truly national figures within the Party who had at least a minimal following among the delegates that cut across regional and sectional lines; and then, of course, there were quite a number of "favorite son"s-- leading figures in their own State's delegation to the Convention who hoped, at most, to be among the eventual "kingmakers" by backing the winning "horse" in the contest for the Party's presidential nomination (that is: a contest taking place during the Convention itself, not before it had even first convened!): many such "favorite son"s hoped for, perhaps, at least due consideration as the Party's vice-presidential nominee or- should the Party's nominee for President actually win the White House that coming Fall- an influential Cabinet post, a coveted Ambassadorship or a Federal judgeship (perhaps even a seat on the United States Supreme Court itself, if only eventually!)... and at least a few "favorite son"s allowed themselves to dream of possibly being the quintessential "dark horse", called forth to be the compromise presidential nominee of his Party after several indecisive ballots of Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination had rendered the favorites amongst the presidential contenders going in seemingly unnominatable...

John Adams once famously said, of the Vice-Presidency: in this I am nothing, but I may be everything... "favorite son"s at deadlocked National Conventions might well be forgiven for having thought very much the same thing about their own status (if only for but a few days within a sweltering, packed meeting hall in the very heart of one of the Nation's major metropolitan centers)!

And, at least at the start, the advent of that device known as the Presidential Primary (especially during, and after, 1912) did little, if anything at all, to change any of this.

For the 'classic' "brokered" National Convention of old was, perhaps, best represented by the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago (so well known in American political lore that now, nearly a century later, it was even invoked by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently as justification for his staying in the 2012 GOP presidential nomination race)-- this was, of course, the (in?)famous "smoke-filled room" Convention... even though there was, in fact, no such "smoke-filled room" (at least per se-- for I am sure that more than a few gentlemen [as well as those for whom that very term would be fairly seen as all too much an exaggeration ;-)] in attendance at that Convention gathered together in small rooms here and there throughout the City of the Big Shoulders [where not also the City of the Extra Ballot Box ;-)] puffing on more than a few stogies and other 'see-gar's as the proceedings therein went on apace).

The very phrase "smoke-filled room" (which then- rather quickly, in fact!- entered the American political lexicon, as well as the political lexicons of several other democracies around the globe!) owes its (albeit indirect) origin to an apparently off-hand remark by one Harry M. Daugherty, a one-time Ohio state legislator (who served as such during the Governorship [in the early 1890s] of a man destined to become a Republican President- one William McKinley, by the way) who had become- after unsuccessfully trying his hand at being nominated to other, higher elective offices (including Governor)- a Republican political boss in the Buckeye State, through which he came to know a newspaper publisher in that State named Warren Gamaliel Harding who had, himself, served as a state legislator (though well after Daugherty was no longer serving in Columbus) and, later, the State's Lieutenant-Governor. Daugherty soon became Harding's key political ally and mentor.

Thanks, at least in part, to Daugherty's counsel and hard work, Harding had secured the Republican nomination for Governor of Ohio in 1910 (although he would lose the General Election to the incumbent, Judson Harmon, himself a major player in the State- as well as national- Democratic Party) and then, in 1914, took advantage of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (through which United States Senators were now to be popularly elected) having just been ratified to be nominated- and thereafter elected- a Senator from Ohio (something that might not have happened had Senators still been chosen by their respective State Legislatures).

On Saturday 21 February 1920 appeared an article in the New York Times in which Daugherty responded to a question about prospects for that year's Republican presidential nomination as follows: [A]bout eleven minutes after 2 o’clock on Friday morning at the convention, when fifteen or twenty men, somewhat weary, are sitting around a table some one of them will say:’Who will we nominate?’ At that decisive time the friends of Senator Harding can suggest him. Note well, dear reader: no mention of a "smoke-filled room"! In addition, in the context of the article itself, Daugherty's remarks seem to have been more than a little sardonic (almost as if Daugherty were holding a 'see-gar' and then saying- in the manner of the TV commercials for 'White Owl' cigars of my youth ["We're gonna get you: you know we're gonna get you!"]- 'after all, you muckraking reporters all know that this is the way we really do things!' [wink, wink])

Nonetheless, Daugherty's rather snide comment might have, soon thereafter, disappeared into the very mists of arcane American political history were it not for the fact that- come the following 1 April- a speech was given in Toledo, Ohio by one General Leonard Wood (a hero of the Spanish-American War [he was actually 'Rough Rider' Teddy Roosevelt's field commander] as well as a field commander in the Philippines in the aftermath of the Filipino Insurrection of the Turn of the Last Century [Wood is held responsible, by many historians, for the infamous slaughter of civilian Muslim Moros in 1906 but, at the time, while this forced Wood to leave those islands, it did not ultimately hurt his career (Wood would actually be appointed Governor-General of the Philippines in the 1920s)] and then Army Chief of Staff under President William Howard Taft): at the time, Wood was one of the two leading contenders for the 1920 Republican presidential nomination- the other being Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois (Lowden was considered the favorite of the 'regular' Republicans- in addition, that year's GOP Convention was to be held in the largest city in Lowden's home State [seemingly to Lowden's own advantage]- while Wood was seen as representing [believe it or not!] the 'progressive' wing of the Grand Old Party in the wake of the untimely death of Theodore Roosevelt the year before [although not without significant opposition from within the 'progressive' camp, led by California Senator Hiram Johnson who had been T.R.'s 'Bull Moose' Party running mate back in 1912]).

In this course of this speech, Wood decried [w]hat a distinguished political leader recently said in Washington would be done in the 1920 Presidential nomination, namely, that about 2:11 A.M. the nomination would be settled by fifteen or twenty tired men sitting around a table in a smoke-filled room behind locked doors. The unnamed "distinguished political leader" was, of course, Daugherty but note well that it was Wood who had, thereby, added the rather picturesque notion of a "smoke-filled room" into the mix!

In any event, this speech was dutifully reported by the New York Times and other major metropolitan dailies come the morning of Friday 2 April 1920 and, from there, the phrase positively took off! By the time the Republican Convention itself met in Chicago that early June (National Conventions being comparatively early in the calendar back then-- why? no air-conditioning!), Daugherty- or was it Wood? (or, for that matter, someone else?)- was said to have spoken of a "smoke-filled room somewhere in the bowels of the Blackstone Hotel along the Chicago lakefront" in which someone [Senator Harding? Governor Lowden? some "favorite son" 'dark horse' not yet on the horizon?] would be agreed upon by a relatively small cabal of Republican Party leaders ... then things really heated up when Daugherty's "prediction" seemed to have actually come true!--

well-- perhaps not quite true:

the 1920 Republican Convention had actually convened on a Tuesday (8 June, to be exact) and the Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination did not even start until Friday (a little late for Daugherty's wee hours of Friday morning to have been at all decisive)-- four ballots were taken that day: General Wood led them all, gaining steadily (from 287 1/2 votes on the 1st to 314 1/2 on the 4th) but Governor Lowden was on his tail (going from 211 1/2 votes to 289 between ballot # 1 and ballot # 4)-- neither man had, of course, yet claimed the 493 needed for nomination (an outright majority of the total 984 delegates).

Whatever "smoke-filled rooms" the gentleman (or not) of the Convention might have retired to that very (late) evening (of which more shortly), they were all back at it on the Convention floor come the morning of Saturday 12 June: Lowden took a slight lead over Wood on the 5th ballot (303 to 299: a sign that Wood's candidacy, at least, was now losing steam); the two leading contenders outright tied on ballot # 6 (at 311 1/2 apiece)-- ballot # 7 changed this by but 1/2 vote (as Wood led Lowden 312 to 311): it was on this ballot that Senator Harding- up till now a "favorite son" from Ohio with scattered support from elsewhere- first emerged as a true "player" in the presidential nomination fight with 105 votes. Wood would never lead again (and it was, by then, abundantly clear that the 'regulars' [of whom Daugherty was one] had no intention of letting the ghost of 'Bull Moose'r Teddy Roosevelt come to the fore at this Convention)-- an 8th ballot thereafter had Lowden leading Wood 307 to 299 (Harding with 133) after which Lowden's floor manager (his "broker"? [;-)]) asked for a three-hour recess (we'll come back to this rather interesting interlude shortly as well).

When the Convention resumed with a 9th ballot, some of Lowden's delegates (counting as such those who had voted for the Illinois Governor on the previous four ballots) began voting for, of all people, Harding! And, come the end of that ballot, Harding had ended up with 374 1/2 to Wood's 249 (Lowden was now third with 121 1/2 which, if nothing else, indicated from where most of Harding's new support was, by then, coming)-- then, a 10th ballot: the "bandwagon" was now rolling and Harding ended up with 644 (151 more than needed in order to be nominated President) to Wood's 181 1/2 (only 28 delegates continued to vote for Lowden on this final Roll Call) and it was all over but for the shouting (oh--- and the nomination of Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge for Vice-President later that same day).

Eventually, it would be learned that- during that very recess in the Convention proceedings between the 8th and 9th ballots- Lowden and Wood met alone in a taxicab parked on a nondescript street not far from the Convention Hall to try and work something out between them: whatever was considered by the two leading presidential contenders, it failed to convince either man and Lowden's people on the Convention floor came out of that recess (presumably with the approval of their 'guy') determined to nominate for President someone other than Wood-- whatever Daugherty's role in all this (or not), Harding was clearly acceptable to Lowden and his supporters (the ensuing 9th ballot itself confirming this).

However, Daugherty was rather quick to claim his share (if not more than his share!) of the credit for Harding's nomination:

on the front page of the New York Times of Sunday 13 June 1920 (the same front page banner-headlining the nomination of the Harding/Coolidge GOP national ticket) appeared an article under the headline 'PROPHESIED HOW HARDING WOULD WIN' along with the subheads 'Daugherty, his Campaign Manager, said Fifteen Tired Men Would Put Him Over', 'SENATE "JUNTA" MADE DEAL' and 'Attended All Conferences Behind Scenes and Blocked Move to Let Wood Bolster Forces'. By now, however, Daugherty's original 21 February 1920 statement had been blown up to read At the proper time when the Republican National Convention meets, some fifteen men, bleary eyed with loss of sleep and perspiring profusely with the excessive heat, will sit down in seclusion around a big table. I will be with them and will present the name of Senator Harding to them and before we get through they will put him over. (Note that this is noticeably different from Daugherty's original comment as well as General Wood's own, later, version of it-- note also that Daugherty still made no mention of a "smoke-filled room"!) Doubtless, Daugherty himself had provided the Times 'stringer' who wrote this article with this updated version (this correspondent himself was careful to note that Daugherty's original comments were "substantially as written here", suggesting that even he was wary of Daugherty's own memory [though he also wrote that Daugherty had made his 'prediction' "shortly before the presidential primaries in (Ohio)"-- however: in reality, as noted above, it was Wood who had referred to Daugherty's comments last and, in addition, had done so nearly a month before Ohio's Presidential Primaries (which had been held on 27 April that year)-- to be fair, the reporter himself would not have had access- out in Chicago- to the archives of the Times itself (as would be the case nowadays, thanks to the Internet) and- even as his story was being set in type for that Sunday's edition- no one at the paper's headquarters in New York City's Times Square itself would have had any real interest in double-checking what Harry Daugherty himself was now claiming to have actually said, and when]).

This article went on to note that, per Daugherty's "prediction", conferences of party leaders were held in the wee hours between the Friday and Saturday sessions of the Convention- themselves breaking up into smaller groups at two hotels (yes, including the Blackstone) and two private clubs nearby, said groups in touch with each other both via telephone and the constant movement of key men between said meetings- at which it was (or so Daugherty himself claimed) determined that Warren Harding should be nominated for President of the United States (as usual with such stories [even one such as this coming right after the Convention itself] the vote tallies ballot-by-ballot at least somewhat bely this, although the article itself did go on to note that a dozen or so key GOP leaders would regularly confer on the rostrum of the Convention itself between each of the ballots on Saturday [presumably to strategize just when to push Harding "over the line" (so: was Lowden's taxicab meeting with Wood, then, merely a feint?-- a little political "misdirection" on behalf of Harding?-- hmmmmmmmmmmm)])...

in any event- and whatever its truth or not- the "smoke-filled room" (whether real or virtual) 'broker'ing the Party leaders' choice for presidential nominee has since been well seen as an essential element of the so-called 'brokered' Convention.

What has to be understood- when looking over the results of the Roll Calls re: Presidential Nomination at this, or any other multi-balloted Major Party National Convention of what might farly be called the "brokered" Convention era- is that what was really going on at the floor of such Conventions was, in essence, not all that much different from what we ourselves witness today during the course of the Presidential Primary/Caucus pre-Convention "season": nowadays, the jostling for position among the principal contenders for a Major Party Presidential Nomination takes place over the course of several months in full view (and, more usually, with the direct participation) of ordinary voters-- "back in the day", on the other hand, this very same jostling lasted but a couple to a few (occasionally, several) days on the floor of a National Convention itself!

Just think of each separate ballot of an "old-time" National Convention as having been the functional equivalent of a week's worth of today's Presidential Primaries (with the key difference that- unlike the delegates on the Convention floor- those who today vote for their choice for presidential nominee on one "ballot" [that is, in a Presidential Primary or first-tier Caucus in their own home State] don't get to participate in any future such "ballot"s)... seen in this light: every 'open' Major Party presidential nomination race is, in a sense, "brokered"--

it's just that, nowadays, the "brokers" are the voters themselves (just be careful where, and how, you put out that cigar before stepping into that voting booth! [;-)])

Because of the expansion in the number of Presidential Primaries (since 1992, the number of same has tended to have settled to around- or just under- 40 [out of 55-plus jurisdictions (if we include the unincorporated Territories and associated Commonwealths of the United States) sending delegates to each Major Party's National Convention]), a "brokered" Convention becomes highly unlikely precisely due to all the "brokering" actually done by the ordinary voters who participate more directly in the presidential nomination/delegate selection process(es) as it goes along!

But let's just say- if only for sake of this particular argument- that Mitt Romney, as this year's Republican National Convention is about to convene in Tampa late this coming summer, either has (at least per, say, this website's "soft" count) enough delegates (1144) to gain the presidential nomination outright (or, at least, is "close enough for Jazz" to that number [I myself think that, if Governor Romney can get into the four-digit range re: "soft"-counted delegates by the time of the Convention, it would be very difficult to keep him from gaining the nomination]): is there any way for his potentially still "alive" (as far as their own campaigns are concerned, that is) rivals for that nomination to then stop him?

Well, yeah... maybe... if only theoretically.

It's all due to one of the fundamental elements of basic Parliamentary Procedure 101: a body meeting can change its own rules by its own vote at any time (though yes: there may be specific processes embodied within the constitution or call, the by-laws or other rules, of said body regulating just how such a proposed rules change may, in fact, be brought onto the floor of that body for all due consideration [and one, therefore, has to presume that those within the body opposed to said rules change(s) will utilize whatever "roadblocks" such processes may offer to keep the proposal from even being voted on] but, in essence, the preceding statement in boldface is essentially true [on the theory that the rules of a body are supposed to be designed to facilitate that which the body itself might wish to do: if the body itself has found that the existing rules have, somehow, "gotten in the way" of the body doing its ordinary business, it can- of its own volition- then simply "rewrite the rule book"])...

it all reminds me very much of what was written, many years ago, in a popular manual for those conducting Town Meeting in the New England States to the effect that a good Moderator of Town Meeting should know just enough of Robert's Rules of Order to both conduct the meeting properly and, at the same time, fairly determine just when to chuck Robert's "out the window"!

If a body in meeting (such as a Party's National Convention-- or, for that matter, a chamber of either the Congress of the United States or a State Legislature) finds that the rules are more inhibiting the business of that body than enhancing it, the rules may be suspended or even outright changed by that very body (which actually happens on a rather routine basis: for instance, the Senator seeking recognition from the Presiding Officer in order to ask if he/she might speak freely on the floor "as if in Morning Business" ['Morning Business' was/is a time specifically set aside by the U.S. Senate (very similar, in fact, to the one-minute speeches in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives at the start of each daily session of same) in which a Senator was/is permitted to speak (for an agreed-upon length of time) on any topic other than the specific one being considered on the floor in ordinary 'Legislative Session' (in the early days of the American Union, it took up- literally- the morning of a legislative day, hence its name, while the afternoon was to be reserved solely to debate and voting on bills, amendments to same, etc.: nowadays, asking "to speak as if in 'Morning Business'" allows a Senator to speak on a topic of specific interest to himself/herself while, at the same time, "killing time" while the floor managers for and against a measure being considered in 'Legislative Session' at the time hash out some dicey issue or knotty problem involving debate on that particular measure-- let's put it this way: watching a Senator speak "as if in Morning Business" on C-SPAN2 is at least a tad more interesting than merely witnessing a Senate 'Quorum Call'! LOL)]--

in such a case, the Senator gains recognition on the floor, asks to- perhaps- "speak for 5 minutes as if in Morning Business" to which the occupant of the Senate President's chair dutifully intones "Without objection, it is so ordered"-- no objection being heard, the Senator may now freely speak... but what just really happened? The rules of the Senate were just changed- or, at least, suspended: for the Senator is here, effectively, "speaking out of turn" but with the tacit consent of the entire Senate... why is this even permitted? Precisely because a body meeting can change its own rules by its own vote at any time (for, if there had been objection raised by another Senator on the floor, a vote could- theoretically- then be called for [if seconded by a third Senator (as strange as that very phrase might read or sound!)] allowing [or not] the Senator to so speak [although, almost always, if someone does object (perhaps the floor managers of the bill before the Senate at that moment "got their acts together" much sooner than they had originally thought and they now want the floor back as soon as possible), the Senator simply withdraws his/her request and there is no such vote]...

such things, which usually take place several times on a daily basis in legislative bodies all across the United States, raise few- if any- eyebrows among the ordinary American citizenry [members of which, in many cases, may not even know what 'Morning Business' even is (you do now, though! [;-)])]... a rules suspension or change that might come to affect who will end up running in November for President of the United States, however---!!!)

Political junkies of my generation (I am now in my mid-50s) should well know the name Jeff Greenfield: currently a contributor to PBS, he was also a political commentator on CBS, ABC, CNN and then back to CBS again (I especially remember his many appearances on the old Ted Koppel-interlocuted Nightline on American ABC some two decades to a quarter century ago now).

The other week, Mr. Greenfield wrote a piece about the possibility that a majority of delegates to the 2012 GOP Convention might well change its own rules in order to potentially derail an otherwise, by then, seemingly sure Mitt Romney presidential nomination (he offered a number of scenarios through which this could happen, the most intriguing of which- at least to me- would be allowing currently sanctioned [for holding their respective Presidential Primaries "too early"] Arizona and Florida to cast their full, original complement of delegate votes [this would be similar to what was done, under rather similar circumstances, re: both Florida and Michigan at the 2008 Democratic National Convention] and, in addition, changing the binding/pledging of delegates from those States from 'Winner Take All' to Proportional [on the theory that Arizona and Florida, having so held their respective Presidential Primaries before the end of March, should have been Proportional in any event (per the rules set up by the Republican National Committee- the same rules Arizona and Florida broke when they scheduled their Primaries, by the way- well before evn the first Caucuses in Iowa were held)]):

Greenfield is correct, by the way, where he points out that the National Convention delegates bound/pledged to presidential contenders are only so bound/pledged to vote for the candidate to which they are so bound or pledged on at least the first ballot of Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination-- these delegates are, in no way, bound or pledged to vote for any particular position on procedural matters (such as rules changes) that might come before the Convention! (However, having said this, it would be hard to believe that a delegate bound or pledged to a presidential candidate would willingly- or purposely- vote against the interests of the candidate to whom said delegate is bound or pledged [then again, there are those delegates "morally"- but not legally- bound (say, from Ohio)... hmmmmmmm]).

Greenfield also- in his piece- gave three not really all that long ago examples of National Conventions in which the ulitmate nominee was, in his opinion, at least somewhat in doubt: the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the 1976 Republican National Convention and the 1980 Democratic National Convention:

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Greenfield's last two examples for, in my own opinion, these were- at best- the proverbial "loser's gambit"s or, at least, quintessential "fool's errand"s... I've already written, at some length, about Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy's attempt to derail the re-nomination of incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980 as part of my piece for this website re: the passing of Senator Kennedy (so I need not repeat that particular episode here: just scroll about halfway down once the page so linked fully loads in your browser, gentle reader, should you actually be interested in this): President Carter's nomination was already assured and the only way to pry delegates from him on Roll Call of the States was to change the rules to allow already pledged delegates to do so (of course, there would always be the concomitant risk- had this rules change been effected- that Kennedy delegates might choose to vote for Carter!)-- however: there was little sense, as I recall (and my, just now, re-researching contemporaneous accounts of these events also tells me), that Kennedy's rules change gambit would even prevail in the first place-- at any rate: it certainly did not!

What had happened at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City four years earlier had been not all that much different: Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford had ended the Primary/Caucus "season" (with Presidential Primaries in- among other States- New Jersey, Ohio and California on the old 'Super Tuesday'- 8 June in 1976) about 150 (give or take) delegates short of clinching the GOP presidential nomination, yet more than 100 delegates ahead of former California Governor Ronald Reagan in what- had The Green Papers been around at the time- would have been a "hard" count: thus, Ford and Reagan were forced to battle over the support of both Uncommitted delegates and a handful of States that had yet to bind/pledge National Convention delegates (although, in many cases, it would be only 'at-large' delegates that would be up for grabs) through the completion of Caucus/Convention procedures with their respective State Conventions (the New York Times of Thursday 10 June 1976 trumpeted a 'SIX-WEEK FIGHT' between Ford and Reagan in their main headline [which also noted that- as far as the Democrats of '76 were concerned- 'CARTER SEEMS DUE TO WIN ON FIRST BALLOT').

Reagan did well early in this "fight"-- winning most of Missouri's delegates (only that State's Governor- later a U.S. Senator- 'Kit' Bond was committed to Ford) and virtually splitting Iowa while making key gains in western States (such Texas and Washington State) while Ford was left with Delaware and a big take at Minnesota's GOP State Convention (although Reagan swept at-large delegates coming out of Montana and New Mexico on the same day). By all accounts, as June 1976 itself came to an end, Governor Reagan had trimmed President Ford's 100+ delegate lead after 'Super Tuesday' pretty much in half!

But Ford's trump card was ever the Uncommitted delegates: one has to here forget the generally popular "Great Communicator" Ronald Reagan of his later two terms as President of the United States and, instead, remember that- back in 1976- Reagan was still the much more strident, post-'Barry Goldwater in '64' conservative Republican he had already been in his two terms as California's Governor (not that he wasn't at all so strident or strongly conservative- whenever he felt it was necessary to be so- as President, but one has only to compare both the tone and content of speeches Reagan made as President, especially while running for re-election in 1984 and even after, to the Ronald Reagan of Our Nation's Bicentennial Year to easily discern clear differences)-- as a result, the (generally) same Republican "establishment" that would be so behind Reagan as he sought a second term in the White House eight years later was not exactly the biggest fan of Reagan for President in 1976!

Simply put: in that Bicentennial Year, most of the GOP leadership cadre was going to do what it felt it had to in order to put President Ford "over the line" at some point...

Reagan would still have key victories in both Colorado and Utah in early mid-July, but Ford offset much of this by winning all the delegates in Connecticut's State GOP Convention not long thereafter-- meanwhile, the incumbent President continued to best Reagan in gaining the public support of Uncommitted GOP National Convention delegates: by late July, the proverbial "handwriting was on the wall" for the former California Governor-- he was still some 30 (give or take) delegates behind the incumbent President while Ford himself was now, by most accounts, within 20 (in what The Green Papers would, today, call a "soft" count) of clinching the presidential nomination; seen in this light, at least, what Reagan did next- while bold, as well as shocking to many- should not have been so surprising.

Nowadays, we all expect the presumptive Major Party presidential nominee to announce his/her choice of a running mate before the Convention (something that goes back to 1984, when presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale publicly announced Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate well before that Party's Convention in San Francisco that year [Democrat Michael Dukakis would follow suit four years later (George H.W. Bush waited until Convention week itself to announce Dan Quayle as his choice in 1988 but, from then on, we have always known the presumptive national ticket of both Major Parties before said Parties have formally nominated their presidential and vice-presidential candidates [heck-- last time round, Sarah Palin accepted her nomination as the Republican candidate for Vice-President before either she or the top of the ticket- Senator John McCain- had even been officially nominated by that Convention!])...

but, back in 1976, the old "tried and true" schedule of presidential nominee being officially so nominated by the Convention, only after which the new nominee announces his choice for Vice-President (confirmed officially by the Convention by the following day), was still the "rule of the day".

Thus, Reagan's big move was a "bombshell": on Monday 26 July 1976, he announced that, if nominated for President, he would choose Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate. Schweiker was someone who, today, would likely be derided by many a conservative Republican as a 'R I N O' (Republican In Name Only)- a moderate 'center to just left of center' (though the newspapers of the time described him as a "liberal") Republican who even wore his thinning hair in a "longish" post-1960s fashion; Schweiker, in fact, would be succeeded in the Keystone State's 'Class 3' U.S. Senate seat by Arlen Specter (who would spend all but most of the final two years of his three decades in the Senate viewed much the same way as his predecessor [that is, until Specter himself would switch to the Democratic side of the Senate aisle])-- in all: between 1968 (when Schweiker had been first elected) until 2008 (the last Federal election before Specter's Party-switch), that same Senate seat would be a bastion of moderate Republicanism for a full four decades!

Reagan was clearly attempting two things with his gambit: a.) he was trying to convince the relatively few Uncommitted delegates that he was not quite the "foaming at the mouth" conservative he had hitherto appeared, to all too many, to be (he was also hoping that more moderate Uncommitted delegates not all that sold on President Ford [it has to be remembered that Ford was never actually elected President in the usual manner and, therefore, certainly had never before been nominated for the Office by his own Party] might yet come his way) and b.) he was pretty much daring Ford to name his running mate ahead of time (it must also be known that President Ford's choice of a running mate, should he win the nomination, was [unusual for an incumbent] at least somewhat the controversial issue: the incumbent Vice-President, former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller [also not having been elected to the post in the usual manner and also, back then, seen as what nowadays would be called a 'R I N O' (although, in order to be an effective Governor of the New York State of the 1960s into the early 1970s, one would pretty much have had to be [the (in?)famous 'Rockefeller drug laws' in that State notwithstanding])], had already been ruled out for a position on the '76 GOP ticket by Ford himself)...

for his part, Ford (a fairly savvy politician, after all: having served as Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives for several years) refused to "take the bait"; if he himself had any idea, at the time, whom he might want as his Vice-President should he be nominated and elected in 1976, the President certainly wasn't saying!

Meanwhile, as regarded many of Reagan's own conservative supporters amongst the National Convention delegates, the move positively backfired! John Connally- the man who, as Democratic Governor of Texas, had been wounded in the same shooting in which President John F. Kennedy had been killed but was, by '76, a newly minted Republican (he had earlier served as President Richard Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury): although, as always, a populist conservative (regardless of Party)- quickly endorsed President Ford and many southern conservatives (more than a few of whom were, like Connally, one-time Democrats who had "defected" to the Republican Party, thereby well moving a trend that would, eventually, make most of the States of the old Confederacy as solidly Republican as they once were solidly Democratic) were outright flabbergasted! (The GOP delegation from Mississippi- 30 delegates seemingly in Reagan's column until now- seemed the most livid of all! [In fact, the chairman of the delegation from the Magnolia State, Clarke Reed, went so far as to publicly endorse President Ford (and how he felt about such as Senator Schweiker was made most clear when he declaimed that the incumbent was far more likely to choose a running mate "from the mainstream")-- Reed was soon joined by the then-only two GOP Congressmen from his State- Thad Cochran and Trent Lott (both destined, eventually, to serve together in the United States Senate)]).

For the Ford nomination campaign, it might as well have been "Christmas in July"! For the President continued to gather enough Uncommitted delegates (though, admittedly, in "dribs and drabs") to allow the New York Times to boldly proclaim- in its headline- 'FORD'S COMMITMENTS REACH GOAL ON FIRST DAY OF CONVENTION' while Reagan was now left to push Rule 16(c)- called, by its proponents, the 'Right to Know' rule- which would require any presidential candidate whose name was formally put in nomination before the Convention itself to announce a running mate before balloting would begin on the Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination. Tuesday 17 August 1976 produced the inevitable showdown- with the new rule voted down on the Convention floor by a vote of 1180 to 1069 (all 30 of Mississippi's delegates voting 'Nay', by the way)... the next night (Wednesday the 18th), President Ford was nominated by the Republican Party to be its 1976 candidate for President of the United States by a vote of 1187 to 1070 (with Mississippi split, 16-14, in favor of Ford over Reagan).

In the end, Ford picked his running mate the "old-fashioned way": naming Senator Robert Dole of Kansas (destined to be his Party's presidential nominee two decades hence) to be the candidate for Vice-President only after the President had already been nominated officially by vote of the Convention.

In either case- '76 GOP or '80 Dem- these attempts to alter the Convention rules for that Convention were, ultimately, vain attempts to thwart the impending nomination of an incumbent President who was already, by the time the attempt was being made, assured of nomination.

To this end, then, the case of the Democrats in 1972 cited by Mr. Greenfield is more to the point (and here, too, I have already discussed that particular situation on this website, so I need not belabor it [although, it should be noted, I was- in the piece so linked- discussing it more in relation to how the courts might well be called upon- or not- to adjudicate such a dispute involving Major Party National Convention rules and, if so, why]): the 1972 dispute was specifically over the taking of some of the National Convention delegates won by the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in a Presidential Primary under the existing rules for that Primary, even though new "reform rules" already adopted by the Party were clearly intended to do away with Presidential Primaries held under such "existing rules" (it was also true that the presidential contender most benefiting from such a scenario- Senator George McGovern of South Dakota- happened to also be the person who had originally chaired the very intra-Party committee that had come up with said "reform rules").

So, then: what is the likelihood of a truly "brokered" Convention a la the Republicans back in 1920? Answer: not very... but, of course, still possible.

In the Mission Statement for this website, Politics is analogized to Sports and any Baseball fan (such as myself) well knows that a pitcher throwing a No-Hitter through the first three innings of a ballgame, while potentially interesting, is not going to keep one from getting up and leaving one's seat to get a beer and a hot dog from the concession stands in the concourse during the 4th inning... on the other hand, a pitcher throwing a No-Hitter into the 7th inning has one beginning to stay put in one's seat and hang on every pitch (that is: until the No-Hitter is either broken up or, far less often, actually achieved!).

In terms of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination campaign, we're now in- maybe- the "5th inning" of a possible "No-Hitter" as regards a potential "brokered" Convention... again, maybe!

A bit more likely- but not by all that much- right now would be the possibility of at least one of the scenarios suggested by Mr. Greenfield (the Arizona/Florida delegate numbers and the distribution of same among presidential contenders being the most likely): but, even here, the trailing presidential candidate(s) would still have to be "viable" as (a) possible nominee(s) come the Convention itself, else there would be little point in their pushing such a thing...

and Mr. Romney's own performance- good, bad or ugly- in Republican Presidential Primaries being held throughout April 2012 will have quite a lot to say about any of this!

 


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