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February 28, 2012 11:17 AM Even If It’s Deadlocked, It Probably Wouldn’t Be Deadlocked

By Jonathan Bernstein

I wrote about this a while ago, but a tweet just now reminded me: InTrade’s current market for “brokered convention” is absolutely insane. It’s now at 20%, which is approximately 19.999% too high. OK, I’ll take seriously an argument that it’s really only 19.9% too high, but it’s somewhere in there.

Actually, this is sort of an excuse to make a point I’ve been meaning to add to this discussion about contested or deadlocked conventions. Here’s the deal: InTrade defines “brokered convention” as a multiballot convention:

If the Presidential nominee is not decided after the first round of delegate voting at the party convention the convention will be considered “brokered” (i.e. it takes multiple rounds of voting by party delegates to decide the nominee).

But the thing is, even if we have the highly unlikely event that the normal delegate accumulation process doesn’t yield a winner, it’s still very likely that everything will be settled long before the convention. Not certain, but very likely.

Once again, there are two possible scenarios. One would be a contested situation, in which one candidate comes close close enough that he only needs to win over some of the unpledged or unbound delegates in order to get to 50% + 1. In that case, unless the candidate was clearly unacceptable to party actors (Ron Paul this year), it’s almost certain that he would pick up enough of those delegates in plenty of time to have a normal, ordinary convention. Remember, the last event in the primary season is in Utah on June 26* — but the convention isn’t until August 27-30. That’s two whole months, more than enough time to resolve it.

On the other hand, in the even less likely scenario of a true deadlocked convention, in which pledged or bound delegates to three or more candidates make it impossible for anyone to get to 1144 delegates…we’ll still probably get there in time. Everyone in the party who is not specifically tied to a candidate is going to have a massive incentive to settle things as soon as possible, and the odds are that even in this situation, one of the candidates would concede defeat and drop out without it actually going to the convention. After all, most conventions during the last generation of the old mixed system (through 1968) were resolved on the first ballot, even though they were all “contested” by modern standards. So it would probably get worked out in advance.

Probably. But not for sure. There is a real possibility that everyone digs in and refuses to budge, and that there’s real multiballot chaos in Florida. I think that’s extremely unlikely this year; it’s possible, but unlikely, for it to ever happen under current rules and procedures.

But the main point here is that whatever the odds are that things will not be resolved by late June, the odds are smaller — and perhaps considerably smaller — that they won’t be resolved by August 27.

*The last event is June 26, but I don’t really know when the very last delegates are selected; those states with caucuses or other multilevel procedures for selecting the actual people to go to Tampa will all have begun their process by then, but I don’t actually know whether all of them will have finished. Not to mention that Texas could wind up going really late, as the date for their primary is still unresolved.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.

Comments

  • Edward Witten on February 28, 2012 4:11 PM:

    I don't see any mention of what seems like the most
    likely outcome if no one candidate has a majority:
    a deal between two candidates.

  • danimal on February 28, 2012 6:56 PM:

    What about a kubuki multi-ballot scenario, in which all the parties get a chance to pretend they are about to win before standing down to the eventual party nominee?