People persist in assuming that because I work at a conservative magazine, I have some deep insight into the workings of the Republican party. I explain that every prediction I’ve made since joining NR has been wrong, but that doesn’t stop them. So lately, when asked who I think will get the nomination, I’ve been saying Paul Ryan.
Obviously, he would have to be a compromise choice, and to be sure, Michael Barone has made a convincing case that the old-fashioned brokered convention is obsolete in the modern world. Advances in telecommunications, he points out, have made it unnecessary for powerful figures to meet in person to hash things out, so deals can be made without getting everyone together in the same place. Add to this the recent tendency for a merciless winnowing of the field early in primary season, which creates a strong incentive for politicians and donors to get on board with the front-runner, and it’s hard to imagine how a brokered convention could happen.
But Barone’s analysis assumes that the makings of a deal exist, and the front-runner dynamic works only if most party members find the front-runner acceptable. In this year’s race, you have a front-runner that GOP regulars don’t just detest but think could literally destroy the party, while perhaps his strongest rival (Ted Cruz) has a style that grates severely on a large number of his fellow politicians. One can imagine a case where Trump and Cruz control 60 to 70 percent of the vote between them, and neither one will budge, and no other candidate or boss will consider helping either one. Then it will be time for a respected and inoffensive candidate to offer a contrast to all the strong personalities in the Republican race, and Ryan is nothing if not Mr. Acceptable. Far-fetched, perhaps, but what in this cycle so far hasn’t been far-fetched?