I’ve been trying, desperately, to hold off on idle speculation about a brokered Republican convention. This is the kind of thing journalists love to speculate about, but it’s very, very, very unlikely. That said, I write a ton of blog posts. And with each day that passes without a clear shape emerging to the Republican race the temptation grows deeper. And now that Charles Babbington’s speculating for the AP, I say let’s let the gates slip.
My take is that the insider CW drastically overestimates the idea that such a convention would be a disaster for the party that held it. In general, I think the whole line of thought that’s led both parties to conclude in recent cycles that short primary campaigns are beneficial doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. To me, the longer the campaign continues, the longer the candidates get tons and tons of free media attention. Things like debates and cable networks showing clips of candidates speaking at rallies and pictures of supporters waving signs are all good for the candidate. The main form of negative media attention a candidate gets during a primary are process stories in the wake of a defeat (see, e.g., Dean after Iowa in 2004, Clinton after Iowa in 2008, McCain during his big collapse in national poll numbers in 2007) but that kind of thing is primarily a problem for whoever wins.
A GOP race that goes all the way to the convention would be a huge, fascinating, and dramatic story that would direct attention away from the star-studded Clinton-Obama race in a probably beneficial way. And it would still leave the eventual winner with plenty of time to make his case to the American people. One of the great ironies of the evolution of presidential politics is that the campaign seasons have been getting longer at the very same time that the rise of cable news and the internet has made it possible for candidates to rise and fall faster than ever. Obviously, the GOP is looking at a generally adverse political climate this year so the odds favor them losing no matter what happens, but I think an extended race could easily wind up helping.