Stadium seating on the platforms seems to be in the future of the 2016 GOP presidential debates. With the buzz about Marco Rubio’s entry into the lists growing and the return of Mitt Romney likelier every day, with John Kasich telling me last Thursday that he’s considering jumping in, and a full dance card of candidates at the Iowa Freedom Forum this past Saturday (with only about half the known field in attendance), the sudden start to 2016 is already in the rearview mirror.
RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trend is joining me and Florida-based political guru Rick Wilson in glimpsing the long-hoped-for unicorn of politics, an “open” or “brokered” convention, on the horizon. It is actually better than a unicorn, according to Wilson, who sees the prospect of such a spectacle as more like “a naked leprechaun riding on a unicorn,” for journalists and consultants at least.
An open convention would have two benefits for the GOP.
First, Hillary and the left’s dark money machine would need MIRVs to effectively target all the potential nominees until the proceedings in Cleveland concluded.
Second, boring, old, failed Hillary would get more boring and older while the GOP actually attracted interest and energy as intrigue mounted and journalists flooded Northeastern Ohio looking not just for LeBron and Johnny Football, but for real news.
The downside of course is that the more candidates that get in, the more still will follow. It could end up like the California gubernatorial recall election of October 2003 that gave the electoral hook to Gray Davis and brought us Arnold after a memorable campaign featuring 135 candidates including Ariana Huffington, former child star Gary Coleman and porn star Mary Carey. (Gary Coleman has died, and Carey unlikely to do well with the GOP’s base, but with Arianna you never know.)
The super-sized list of credible candidates — why wouldn’t Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder get in at this point in their successful careers, why not Nevada’s Sandoval and New Mexico’s Martinez if favorite sons and daughters see openings for influence for their states, themselves and their issues? This helps explain why 2012 GOP nominee Romney almost has to enter. He leads the polls and even if he weren’t the eventual nominee, given the rules on proportional allocation and the winner-take-all states favorable to Romney, he’d at a minimum end up with a huge role in selecting the nominee.
States are scrambling to move their 2016 GOP primaries up and into the running for the big-dollar expenditures: the contests on March 1, 8 and 15, 2016, the earliest dates available to them thanks to the “Reince Reforms” engineered by RNC Chair Reince Priebus, who has brought order out of chaos to both the primary and caucus calendar and the debate schedule and formats.
States that hold their votes before March 15 have to allocate their delegates proportionately. After that #WTA can take over. The biggest total of money looks to be spent on March 1 and March 15, and every media outlet in every state is hoping their legislatures figure out ad revenue is good for everyone and get in the game. If Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are slugging it out in Florida on March 15, one of them will likely exit afterwards, but everyone else with one deep pocketed friend and a super PAC can range across the country and the political landscape right up to the Cleveland convention.
Cleveland of course will be coming off an 18 month run of back-to-back-to-back Indians, Browns and Cavs titles, and the Ohio State University enjoying a two-fer NCAA football championship run. What a capper to have the most interesting convention since 1860, when the GOP picked dark horse Abe Lincoln to save the Union.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.