What is a Brokered Convention?

Should no Republican candidate earn enough delegates before their scheduled convention in Cleveland, Ohio, a brokered convention (or contested convention) could enable a candidate to step forward in order to lead the party. To cross the finishing line, a candidate must win at least 1,237 of the 2,472 delegates up for grabs, however such an outcome is looking less likely as the primaries roll on throughout the months. The simplicity of a popular vote is thrown into disrepute should a brokered convention take place, and this itself requires an explanation.

What Happens in a Brokered Convention?

Step 1 State delegates announce their primary winner(s)
Step 2 Delegates are released from their state primary winner(s)
Step 3 Candidates work the convention floor to win over delegates
Step 4 Several rounds of voting as candidates drop out and endorse others
Step 5 Voting ends when one candidate has 1,237 delegates

As the race for the White House heats up, there is much talk of a brokered convention within the Republican Party, and instances of this are quite rare as the last time this occurred was back in 1952.

A brokered convention (or, more properly, a ‘contested convention’) happens when no candidate has a majority of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. A vote is taken, this is called the first ballot, and if no candidate has the number of delegates needed, the convention is considered contested; this is when things start to get a bit tricky. Once a convention is contested, the delegates are no longer tied to their original candidates and are free to vote for whomever they want, and all bets are off.

This is when a substantial amount of wheeling and dealing takes place. Delegates can be persuaded to make changes to their original vote, and the candidate who originally had the most delegates could lose their support and suddenly be side-lined. The voting continues until a candidate wins the necessary number of delegates.

Anyone Can Win

Back in 1880, James Garfield didn’t even run for President, but became the unexpected winner, after going through 35 rounds of ballots and gaining the support of two leading candidates, and some think a similar scenario may be possible this time around, with Donald Trump going head-to-head with the Republican establishment. Rubio, Carson and any of the other 2016 Republican candidates could gain enough momentum in between voting rounds to become President. Who knows, Jeb Bush could come back and surprise everyone.

Brokered Convention Quick Facts

Last Time This Happened 1952
Longest Brokered Convention 103 Rounds of Ballots in 1924
Last President Elected from a Contested Convention Franklin Roosevelt in 1932

A brokered convention for the Republican Party would quite simply stretch democracy to its limits, as a sizable chunk of the GOP establishment would struggle to throw its weight behind Donald Trump. Questions of legitimacy may also ensue, as a brokered convention could see a rush of support for a candidate such as John Kasich, despite the fact he is trailing behind in the delegate count. In this day and age, brokered conventions are not considered to be desirable as it suggests that a party is suffering from fragmentation; a notion that could cost the Republicans the election.

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