The Boy Genius’ Messed Up “Brokered Convention” Scenario

About this time every competitive presidential cycle, we start getting “brokered convention” prophecies from people who shrewdly understand how boring contemporary nomination events have become and how much journalists long for the good old days (before most of them were born) when conventions were exciting and unpredictable affairs. We’re due a bumper crop of such articles this time around so long as there’s a double-digit field of candidates and Donald Trump in the mix.

But I did a double-take when I saw the byline on the latest offering in the genre: none other than Karl Rove! The Boy Genius gets down into the weeds of the nominating calendar and the rules and comes up with a scenario where nobody goes to Cleveland in charge of a majority, with (presumably) hijinks ensuing.

Fortunately for those who don’t know enough about the rules to check out Rove’s facts and logic and don’t have the time to read up on it, the person (outside the campaigns) who knows most about the subject, Frontloading HQ‘s Josh Putnam, takes a look at his scenario and trashes it pretty briskly. Turns out Karl doesn’t understand the distinction between “winner take all” and “winner take most” delegate allocation models; doesn’t understand the distinction between “superdelegates” (the large number of uncommitted delegates Democrats provide for) and “automatic delegates” (the much smaller number of delegates Republicans give seats to based on their party leadership positions, who by no means will all be uncommitted); and doesn’t understand the impact of the GOP’s “Rule 40,” which significantly restricts the number of candidates qualified to have their names placed in nomination at the convention.

In any event, you can read Rove and then read Josh and smile. What I’m wondering about is Rove’s motives in writing and placing this piece at the Wall Street Journal. There’s been a lot of ink spilled on gossip that Rove and Jeb don’t get along, or that they’re competing for the same donors, or that Rove and Jeb’s strategist Mike Murphy are old rivals. But I assume there’s still some tribal loyalty to the Bush family that Rove harbors, and if not, he’s quite the ingrate. So it makes you wonder: is Rove trying to blaze a new path to the nomination for Jeb? If the “brokered convention” scenario is becoming the best-case scenario for a Bush nomination–then Jeb’s in even greater trouble than I realized.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.