This story from the New York Times yesterday should provide endless hours of enjoyment.
For the first time in a generation, Republicans are preparing for the possibility that their presidential nomination could be decided at their national convention rather than on the campaign trail, a prospect that would upend one of the rituals of modern politics.
The race remains Mitt Romney’s to lose, and if he continues to accumulate delegates at a steady clip starting with contests in Puerto Rico on Sunday and Illinois on Tuesday, he can still amass the 1,144 necessary to secure the nomination before the last primary, in Utah on June 26.
But as he struggles to win the hearts of conservative voters and hold off a challenge from Rick Santorum, party leaders, activists and the campaigns are for the first time taking seriously the possibility that neither he nor anyone else will get to that total.
In that case, the nomination would be decided by the more than 2,200 delegates — from obscure local officials and activists to national figures — who will attend the party’s convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.
They would embark on an unscripted, contentious and televised drama that has not played out in 36 years, a period in which both major party conventions have become slickly produced and highly choreographed pep rallies kicking off the general election campaign.
Unlike previous contests where the also-rans either got out early and then supported the inevitable nominee before the convention or conceded gracefully and stood on the stage with them as the balloons dropped, neither Rick Santorum nor Newt Gingrich will go gently. They’ve made it pretty clear that they both despise Mitt Romney and their goal has become less about winning the nomination than it is denying it to Mr. Romney.
Even if the numbers come out in Mr. Romney’s favor and he goes to Tampa with the number he needs — and the establishment is working hard at it — it’s going to be hard to see how the party will deny speaking time to the losers. And then we have the makings of another Pat Buchanan culture war speech in 1992 which got on in prime time and scared the crap out of anyone who wasn’t a True Believer. They’ll be speaking to the base of the party — the Tea Party, the birthers, the tenthers — the ones with the determination to take the country back to the white straight Christian dreamworld they thought they grew up in.
Hot fun in the summertime.