A Brokered GOP Convention and a Third-Party Candidate Are Real Possibilities

A brokered GOP convention and a third-party candidate are not reasons to fret, writes Mark McKinnon.

What if the presidential candidates in November turned out to be Jeb Bush, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, and Barack Obama?

Given the train wreck occurring right now, it’s not impossible there could be a brokered Republican convention, plus a credible third-party candidate.

Remember four years ago?

President Hillary Clinton. By way of a brokered convention or third-party run. That was the fear of some in the summer of 2008. Obama had only 155 more delegates than Clinton at about this point in the race. There was a chance neither would reach the required minimum until the June convention. Headlines warned of “The Coming Brokered Democratic Convention.” And there was talk of pledged delegates switching, of super delegates deciding the outcome. Even when it was clear Obama had secured the nomination, worried whispers of “Hillary as a third-party candidate” echoed across the Potomac.

History repeats. Today’s headlines read: “Will It Be A Brokered GOP Convention?” And “A Third Voice for 2012?

Though Mitt Romney has the early lead in both official and pledged GOP delegates, and a well-funded machine backing him, he’s learned that money can’t buy you love. Rick Santorum has the big mo, fresh off victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, and he now leads in national polls. If Romney does not win the primary on Feb. 28 in Michigan, where he was born, and where he won in 2008, questions about his electability will increase. But so too will questions about Santorum’s suitability as a general election candidate.

Super Tuesday is coming, but there are not enough delegates at stake to clinch the nomination. It’s possible Romney and Santorum will split votes and delegates with the other two still in the race, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

John Avlon made clear in a recent Daily Beast column how tricky the math is for anyone to neatly wrap things up now: “Play around with the CNN delegate calculator and you can see that even if Romney were to win every contest going forward with 100 percent of the delegates (that’s called kickin’ it North Korea-style) he still wouldn’t reach [the required number of delegates] 1,144 until April 3. Under a similar extreme scenario, it would take Rick Santorum until April 23. Here’s the real kicker: If Romney and Santorum were to split the delegates going forward and each were to carry five of the 10 all-or-nothing contests, neither candidate would win enough delegates to clinch the nomination.”

Knock. Knock. Here comes chaos.

But chaos could be a good thing considering the way things look now. Jeb Bush would be the most likely “white knight” candidate to get drafted into a brokered convention. Everyone realized early on in this process that he wouldn’t run for obvious legacy reasons. But he’s also always been the consensus favorite among Republican party faithful. And given the way the landscape has shifted, and if he were drafted, the equation could change in a way that would make Jeb have to reconsider.

And David Walker, a cofounder of No Labels, and founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, knows more about the federal budget and deficit than anyone running. He also has common sense ideas on how to solve our fiscal problems. Walker could be on the Americans Elect ballot, perhaps as the vice presidential nominee. It’s easy to see that whoever gets nominated on the Americans Elect platform, which demands by its rules a unity pick to balance the ticket, would find Walker a very attractive running mate.

Scoff if you will. But history repeats.

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Abraham Lincoln was a third-party candidate. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated at a brokered convention.

From chaos, order.