Los Angeles, CA (TFC) – The 2016 presidential election season has been turbulent, with a wave of anti-establishment populism sweeping both the Democratic and Republican parties. This anti-establishment movement has been especially vocal within the Republican Party with the rise of Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s meteoric rise, however, has shaken the party to its core and has seriously threatened its electoral prospects. Amid concerns that the Republican Party could lose the presidency and the Senate, all of the other Republican candidates have begun to collude to prevent Donald Trump from receiving an outright majority of the delegates. This would force a brokered convention in which delegates and powerbrokers within the Party would have to negotiate to select a final nominee. If this were to occur someone else besides Trump, and perhaps even someone who has yet to campaign for the GOP nomination, could potentially become the Republican nominee.
The feud between Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP has left the Republican Party divided and in shambles. This in-fighting has left almost no one unscathed and many of the GOP’s stars have exited the race vanquished, with a tarnished reputation, and with little remaining political capital. I believe that the lone exception to this is John Kasich who has refrained from engaging in childish antics. However, the antagonistic and juvenile nature of the GOP primary season has made it very difficult for the party to reunify behind a single candidate, regardless of who receives the nomination. This has effectively left the party leaderless and impotent in the general election. As a result, the Republican Party bosses are almost certainly panicking and looking for a new candidate to lead them through the general election.
I believe that the Republican bosses have chosen Mitt Romney to fulfill this role. Mitt Romney is an unlikely choice for this role because, at the beginning of the race, he lacked the support to even campaign during the primary season. In fact, in January 2015, Mitt Romney stated that he would not run for the GOP nomination. However, the civil war in the Republican Party has claimed victim after victim, leaving Mitt Romney as “the last man standing.” As a result, he has emerged as a strongman within the party. This has become apparent with his attacks on Donald Trump and the clear influence that he wielded over the outcome of the Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming primaries. Since Romney was the 2012 nominee, his rise to power has left the GOP with a candidate who has widespread appeal amongst the party and whose reputation has yet to be tarnished by the childish antics that have marred this primary season.
Mitt Romney would also appeal to the Republican Party bosses for a variety of other reasons. First, Romney is electable and could probably pose a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Romney will also probably have learned some lessons from his failed 2012 campaign, which would make him stronger in the general election. Second, Romney has a very close relationship with Paul Ryan, who is the current Speaker of the House and ran in the 2012 election as Romney’s vice president. Many have speculated that Paul Ryan, himself, might attempt to run for the GOP nomination. However, I think this is unlikely, as a Romney presidency would better serve the interests of the Republican Party. If Romney were to become president and Paul Ryan remained as Speaker of the House, then it would allow for deep cooperation and coherence between the legislative and executive branches of government. This would make it much easier for the party to introduce and pass GOP-sponsored legislation. Lastly, a Romney nomination provides the party bosses with an opportunity to get rid of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who are both widely despised by the Republican establishment, in one fell swoop.
It is clear that a Romney candidacy would greatly benefit the Republican Party bosses. However, there are numerous obstacles to a Romney nomination. The first obstacle is Donald Trump. Trump is currently in the lead in the GOP race and will win the nomination if he wins a majority of the delegates. However, Trump can be stopped if the other remaining candidates earn enough votes to deny Trump that majority. This is entirely feasible. At the time of publication, Donald Trump has 739 delegates. However, Cruz and Kasich, combined, have 608 delegates. Furthermore, Rubio, who has dropped out of the race has 166 delegates who are now free to vote for the candidate of their choice. I suspect that these delegates will primarily back Cruz and Kasich, which would add to their counts and narrow Trump’s lead over the Republican field. Furthermore, the primaries are moving towards the West, where people are less likely to support Trump. As a result, I think that it is entirely plausible that Trump will fail to obtain the absolute majority needed to win the nomination outright.
If this scenario were to come to pass, the Republican Convention would be brokered. In a brokered convention, delegates are allowed to switch sides and vote for the candidate of their choice. Successive ballots are then held until one candidate obtains an absolute majority. Currently, the rules state that a candidate must have won a majority in eight states in the primary process in order to be eligible to win the nomination at a brokered convention. However, the rules can still be changed ahead of the convention to allow for a lower eligibility threshold. As a result, I would expect to see the rule changed so that a candidate is not required to have won a majority in any state in order to be included on the ballot at a brokered convention. This would make Mitt Romney eligible to participate in the convention ballots. Since he is still a respected central figure in the Republican Party, I would expect him to be competitive in a brokered convention.
It should be apparent that Mitt Romney has a path to the GOP nomination. I also think that it is likely that he will take this path, as it is clear that he has ambitious political objectives. In addition, Romney has yet to rule out his acceptance of the GOP nomination if he were to win it at a brokered convention. This, to me, indicates that he intends to pursue the nomination at a brokered convention. His nomination would also serve the interests of the GOP and as a result, I believe that the Republican Party bosses will go to great lengths to help his bid for the nomination. The only thing that could possibly stop this is if Kasich were to emerge as a viable candidate can demonstrate an ability to unite the party, as it would force Romney to compete with, and harm, a moderate, establishment Republican. However, while I think that Kasich will gain some momentum, I think that it is unlikely that he could gain the influence needed to unite the party behind him in the general election. As a result, I would expect to see Mitt Romney to emerge as a candidate ahead of the Republican National Convention and possibly even as the winner of the GOP nomination.