Alex Massie

GOP convention to be brokered? Ooooh, you are a tease...

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On, the other hand TNR's John Judis wins the prize for being the first (I think) to speculate upon the likelihood of us all actually being able to enjoy the delicious pleasure of a brokered convention:

With former Senator Fred Thompson's entry into the presidential race, the Republicans now have at least three candidates who could have the money and votes to compete, if necessary, all the way to June 2008. And they might have to do so. Indeed, when the Republicans meet in Minneapolis-St. Paul in September 2008 to choose their nominee, they might be looking at a brokered convention.

Of course, the party has had multiple strong candidates before--in 1980, for instance, and 1988 and even in 2000. But the old schedule of primaries and caucuses was designed to winnow down the field. By March, the field was invariably reduced to two candidates, one of whom would eventually gain enough delegates through the primaries and caucuses to win the nomination. But the 2008 schedule concentrates two-thirds of the primary and caucus votes in the first month, which ends February 5. If there is no clear frontrunner by then, the primary and caucus race will probably go down to June, and perhaps to the convention.

Colour me unpersuaded. This is a quadrennial journalistic fantasy. I suspect one could find folk putting their hopes into their predictions at some stage during every presidential election cycle. Don't mean it's gonna happen.

Which is a shame because, god knows, something needs to be done to liven up the actual conventions. There was a moment in one of the early seasons of The West Wing in which Toby Ziegler berated the TV executives who had proposed cutting back their convention coverage to little more than the candidate's acceptance speech. This, apparently, was un-American and a threat to democracy itself. Or something like that. But of course the TV people were right. The conventions are nothing more than an infomercial for the political parties - and, frankly, are much less weirdly compelling than the standard infomercials one sees on TV for miracle knives or life-saving gloves.

Even the nominee's acceptance speech is something of a bore. It needs to pass one test only: does the candidate look "Presidential". If they can't manage that on this sort of set-piece occasion they're doomed.What they actually say is of less importance than how they say it. But since they'll never have a friendlier audience or setting they're always going to pass this test, rendering even it less than useful as a means of judging their electoral viability.

So, yes, a brokered convention replete with arm-wrestling in (sadly) smoke-free rooms would be wonderful. But will it happen?  That's too much to hope for.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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