2012 Commentary: Republicans Should Pray for a Contested National Convention

Abstract: Many Republicans are worried that the long nomination fight will hurt their eventual presidential nominee. However, I believe the GOP should long for a situation in which no candidate wins the nomination outright before the start of the convention.

Gerald Ford shakes hands with  Ronald Reagan (1)
The Republicans' presidential nominating process continues to drag on with little end in sight. An Associated Press article notes that, while Mitt Romney is ahead in the delegate count, he might not be able to secure the nomination before the Republican National Convention, which begins on Aug. 27. His closest competitor, Rick Santorum, apparently senses this possibility as well. Per a recently published Associated Press story, he has started comparing himself to Ronald Reagan and portraying Mitt Romney as a newer version of Gerald Ford in a reference to the primary candidates involved in the last Republican contest to remain undecided until the convention.

The convention featuring Regan and Ford occurred almost 36 years ago, which means it will be difficult for political experts to determine ahead of time whether a contested, 2012 Republican National Convention will benefit or harm the eventual GOP nominee for President. As Cameron Joseph of The Hill notes, Americans may react negatively to such an event if they feel that the contest is resolved undemocratically, via "backroom deals [that resemble the ones] that dominated early 20th century politics."

On the other hand, the eventual Republican nominee may benefit from a contested convention which appears to be democratic and goes on for several balloting rounds. As Americans have demonstrated time and again over the past decade, they love to watch reality television. Every week, they turn on their TV sets by the millions to view such favorites as "Survivor," "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars." It is almost a certainty that a contested Republican National Convention will command a very high Nielsen rating, as indicated by the fact that the 1976 event, in the pre-reality TV era, achieved a remarkable 31.5 rating (per Nielsen's website).

Many Americans who tune in to watch a contested Republican National Convention may be energized and excited by the ballot voting process. Perhaps they will choose a candidate and root him on in the same way that they attach themselves to a cherished singer on "American Idol" or a favorite contestant on "Survivor." This excitement might lead some people who were previously uncommitted to side with the Republican candidate in the general election. At the same time, the GOP could take advantage of a unique opportunity to disseminate its message to millions of Americans who do not usually care about political issues.

So, perhaps instead of fretting about the political damage the eventual winner might sustain if the primary contest drags on, the GOP should instead long for the nomination to continue into the convention. It would provide Republicans with a chance to reach millions of Americans who would not otherwise listen to their speeches.

1. Photographer/Author: William Fitz-Patrick
    Date: August 19, 1976
    Title/Description: President Gerald Ford, as the Republican nominee, shakes hands with nomination foe 
                               Ronald Reagan on the closing night of the 1976 Republican National Convention.
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - U.S. government document (click on the link/title for
                                     photo, credits, permissions).

-- Anthony Hopper #conventions #GOP #politics #elections #Obama #Romney #opinion

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