To hear former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove tell it, the odds of a brokered convention for Republicans this summer are slim and none. Actually, his exact words were: "The odds are greater that there's life on Pluto than that the GOP has a brokered convention."
[Getty Images News photo by Justin Sullivan]
A brokered or contested convention can occur when none of a party's candidates for president wins enough delegates during the lengthy primary and caucus process held beforehand. The magic number for Republicans in 2012 is 1,144 delegates.
Because so many states have started awarding those delegates proportional to the popular vote, instead of winner-take-all, the chattering classes have started to wonder out loud whether it's even possibly Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul could really win the nomination before the convention begins in Tampa in late August.
Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to Bush, says the chances of an actual brokered convention featuring a surprise candidate such as Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie recruited by party bosses hiding out in smoke-filled rooms are miniscule. The same goes for a contested convention, which is slightly different.
"A brokered convention needs party bosses, and today there aren't any," Rove writes in The Wall Street Journal this week. "In the old days, party chiefs often led delegations of regulars who took orders and depended on patronage. No longer. In some states, winning candidates don't even pick their delegates -- party conventions do.
"This means that while the delegation is committed to support a candidate for a certain number of ballots, many individual delegates remain loyal to other candidates. That makes it more difficult for anyone in a smoke-filled bargaining session to deliver a large number of delegates."
Rove argues that last year's "heartthrobs" -- Daniels, Bush and Christie -- have remained steadfast against entering the presidential race at this point. Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, meantime, has offered her help in the event of a deadlocked convention. That won't cut it, either.
"... Is it realistic to think that millions of Republicans who voted in primaries and caucuses would be happy to have a standard-bearer who had skipped most or all of the primary contests?" writes Rove. "A brokered convention would split the party and send it into the general election angry and divided. It would be a recipe for disaster."
There are dozens of primaries and caucuses yet to be held. A single candidate, argues Rove, will emerge as the clear front-runner and begin winning a majority of delegates -- even if it takes until late May.
Dreams of a brokered convention will again be dashed. There's no life on Pluto, after all.
Or ... is there? Space buffs might recall an important discovery from the Hubble Telescope late last year in which fresh evidence of complex organic molecules, the so-called "building blocks of life," were spotted on the frozen planet.
Maybe Palin ought to start packing her bags for Tampa, after all.