Tampa, We Have a Problem

While President Obama still has a long way to go on the road to reelection, it is quickly becoming clear that the current set of Republican presidential candidates don’t have what we, in this country, used to call “the right stuff.” Mitt Romney is unprincipled; worse, he seems to have prided himself on that fact until it occurred to him that it might cost him the White House. Rick Santorum, despite his impressive surge, may be too principled, and his attempts to deconstruct the Obama theology on national television are not helping. Uncle Owen (the smoldering skeleton guy from Star Wars) could have been describing Ron Paul when he said, “That wizard’s just a crazy old man.” Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, Paul doesn’t have any Jedi mind tricks to play. When the votes are cast, Ron Paul will be nowhere near the Republican nomination. Newt Gingrich is a marginal player at this point, and if Santorum is able to continue carrying the fight to Romney, the former Speaker may not even be able to hold the South. The Republicans may not even arrive at their convention in Tampa with a nominee – and even if they do, he may very well be too bruised and too inadequate to stand a chance against Obama in the fall. But before my Democrat friends break out the champagne, I have a modest proposal.

It’s simple. When all the sane options are gone, the crazy ones start to look pretty good. If no Republican candidate arrives in Tampa with enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, the game will change instantly. Depending on the final count, Ron Paul, in particular, will be angling for influence and a role as kingmaker. But more importantly, the Republican establishment (which is to say, the people at the convention), will face the very real prospect of choosing between a messy, undemocratic process that nominates a bad candidate (a hugely weakened Romney, an insurgent-yet-unelectable Santorum), or a messy, undemocratic process that nominates somebody that can, you know, win. A brokered convention would be a media circus, and it could very well damage the GOP enormously. On the other hand, it could be the best thing that’s happened to the party in a long time. It would keep a damaged Romney from dragging down the rest of the Republican ticket, and it would allow the GOP to choose from among a new set of champions, ones with names like Daniels, Christie, and (dare I say it?) even Bush. The risks are enormous, but barring wild cards like Iran, the European debt crisis, or a downturn in the Chinese economy, President Obama is looking stronger every day. Praying for a brokered convention may be reckless, but it’s a better plan than the one Republicans appear to have now: roll over and lose.