Many years ago there was a game show, entitled, “The $64,000 Question.” The show ended prematurely because of scandal. But for many, the question of the day and for 2016 is who will be the Republican Party’s nominee for President. If we were honest, no one knows. At present Donald Trump and Ben Carson are ahead in most polls in most states, but that does not answer the question, no, not at all. It is truly a $64,000 question as to who the nominee will be!
This year the Republican Party does not have any winner take all caucuses or primaries for the first 24 contests. If states do not change the rules for the states that follow March 15, it is very likely that no one will have enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, when the Republican Convention convenes.
The upcoming Republican Convention promises to be the most exciting and surprising that we have seen in America in some time. Not since 1968 have we seen a political convention where the outcome was in such serious doubt.
If we look at the Republican field of candidates, there has been for awhile a consistent leader of the pack, Donald Trump but we now see that Ben Carson has seemed to have overtaken Trump in the polls. One consistency that we have seen is the up and down nature of the rest of the field as one candidate rises one week and sinks in the polls the next week. We may be looking at the very real possibility of having a brokered convention. We may get a better handle on what will transpire when the voting begins, but maybe not.
From a historical perspective the current political dynamic reminds me of the Republican Convention of 1920. The Republican field had three favorites for the nomination going into the convention. General Leonard Wood, Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois, and Senator Hiram Johnson of California. Through the first 8 ballots the three favorites held their ground in the balloting. After 8 ballots each of the three favorites started to lose ground with the party stalwarts looking at other candidates.
Like today, there were many candidates who allowed their name to be put forward for the nomination. There were 12 candidates who received votes on the first ballot, 10 of which received votes for the first 10 ballots.
The convention took over 100 ballots to choose their man. Warren Harding, a dark horse candidate going in, became the nominee after the infamous smoked filled room of party leaders chose him. His choice was said to be based upon the fact that he came from a key state from an electoral standpoint and he looked like a President.
Moving forward nearly 100 years, we have over 10 candidates who have declared their intention of running for President. This election we have two groupings of candidates, one group has been referred to in the press as the outsider candidates. Three candidates who are in that group, Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have never held political office. They have not even been a city councilperson or mayor, but here they are seeking to be nominated for the number 1 office in the world, the office of President of the United States. One other candidate is considered to be an outsider and that is Senator Ted Cruz. He is a Senator but he is being portrayed as an outsider, probably because his path has taken him to where he has shown no willingness to be part of the Institution. He has shown a disdain for traditional norms and has gone against the leadership of his own party in the Senate.
A second group of candidates has emerged as the so-called, Establishment candidates, among these candidates are Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.
The other candidates in the cast of many, have not seen their poll numbers get above a certain percentage to be considered serious candidates at this point.
A top tier of candidates seems to be emerging. Currently, Donald Trump and Ben Carson are leading but neither of the two have a sufficient percentage in the polls to warrant a belief that either of them will have enough delegates to claim a victory on the first ballot. The second grouping is bunched up with Marco Rubio having reached 3rd in the polling after his performance in the last debate. Jeb Bush has been a consistent laggard in the polls having not as of yet experienced a temporary spike in the polling. He like Paul started out better than their current standing. Jeb Bush has the money to go on but will he garner enough of support as the second choice of the future delegates to be able to make the case at the Convention? Ted Cruz is counting on having his own delegates plus being the second choice of Trump’s delegates. His hope is that if Trump falters he would pick up Trump’s delegates. Governor Kasich’s hope is that he will become the de facto choice of the political professionals in a hung convention if Jeb Bush continues to fade. Marco Rubio continues to see his star rise in these preliminary polling results. He has plenty of financial backing at this point to stay the course of what is a marathon of political will, where each candidate is tested by the public.
The eventual choice and nominee will need to have a floor manager and help on the floor of the convention who knows how to count noses or in this case delegates. Promises might need to be made for political jobs to solidify delegate support. Favorite son candidates might emerge, with the hope of boosting their political future. One thing is fairly certain at this point, we have no idea who will emerge victorious. If you like politics the coming Republican convention promises to be the most exciting that we have had in years. The road to the White House continues. Remember it is often better to be the tortoise than the hare.