History Op-eds February 17, 2012: Jules Witcover A brokered convention?

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A brokered convention?

The winnowing process in the Republican presidential nomination race has reduced the field to four candidates — Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich– each of whom has a legitimate rationale to keep going.Mr. Romney continues to have the most money and largest field organization. Mr. Santorum has recent, if modest, primary or caucus successes to sustain him. Mr. Gingrich has his immense ego and a rabid following to drive him on. And Mr. Paul has his own goal of advancing a libertarian strain in the Republican Party quite apart from achieving the nomination, and an idealistic and undaunted youth brigade behind him.

With Mr. Romney failing to gain clear majorities of voters in the contests to date, and with no message that seems to promise a broader constituency, there’s no reason for the other candidates to fold up. The free televised debates, though temporarily in suspension, will resume soon, enabling them to remain visible to millions of voters.

Between now and the next primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28, the super-PACs supporting Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich can be expected to fire a host of negative advertising at Mr. Santorum. The latest New York Times/CBS News survey has him at 30 percent support to 27 percent for Mr. Romney, 12 percent for Mr. Paul and only 10 percent for Mr. Gingrich.

The former House speaker has been fading so fast that ordinarily a candidate in his straits would be expected to drop out soon. But Mr. Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race into the convention, and a combination of more impressive debate performances and his immense self-assurance could well keep him going.

So what happens if this quartet of presidential wannabes hangs in, with none of them catching fire but each of them picking up a share of the national convention delegates as the process proceeds? With many states allocating them in proportion to the percentage of votes won in the primaries and caucuses, split decisions in many states seem entirely possible….READ MORE

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