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Tom Murse

Are the Republicans Really Headed for a Brokered Convention?

By February 14, 2012

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Newt GingrichNever mind his recent primary losses.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich keeps saying he's going to take his presidential campaign "all the way to the convention," suggesting he believes front-runner Mitt Romney might not win enough delegates during the state caucuses and primaries to secure the nomination before the summer meeting.

If that scenario plays out - and let's be clear: it's a long shot - Republicans face the prospect of having their first brokered convention in more than 60 years.

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Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's surprising sweep through primaries in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota fueled more speculation among political pundits about a brokered convention and the Romney's campaign apparent signs of weakness.

"In a worst-case scenario for Romney, he could head into the August convention short of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination," Jeffry Bartash wrote for The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch. "Santorum has shown strength in the Midwest and Georgian New Gingrich might have an edge in the South. They could win enough states and delegates in those regions to prevent Romney from clinching the nomination outright."

Brokered conventions, however, have become rare since the 1800s and early 1900s. Since then presumed presidential nominees secure enough delegates for the nomination months before the party conventions. The most recent brokered convention was in 1948, between New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, and former Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen.

There are plenty of reasons to think we won't see a brokered convention this year, or any time in the future.

"With virtually all delegates being selected in scheduled primaries and caucuses, there are no longer any blocs of uncommitted or 'favorite-son,' or machine-controlled delegates who can prevent a front-runner from accumulating a majority well before the convention," writes The New Republic's Ed Kilgore.

"All the great 'smoke-filled room' conventions -- including the classic 1920 GOP session in Chicago which gave America a Harding administration, and the 1924 Democratic convention that required 103 ballots -- occurred when primaries were marginal events that mainly consisted in influencing the party bosses who controlled a sizable majority of delegates."

Those days are long gone.

All of which means, it's fun to speculate about brokered conventions. But don't hold your breath waiting for one.

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