Monday, December 21, 2015


This morning I argued that Paul Ryan sealed his doom by shepherding a budget deal through Congress that's less than 100% wingnut -- the crazies in the GOP will never accept compromise, so Ryan is inevitably going to be forced out as speaker eventually, and he certainly won't be the GOP's presidential nominee anytime soon.

I still think that's true. However, Charlie Pierce points out that the budget deal protects the wingnut "social welfare" organizations that are the backbone of the ridiculous IRS "scandal," which ought to make the crazies happy:
Buried in the budget deal that now has emerged from Congress is a provision by which the IRS will be actively forbidden from enacting new rules in 2016 to rein in the obvious scams in which most of the 501(c)4's engage. I don't care how loudly the flying monkeys howl at Speaker Paul Ryan for "betraying" them by striking a deal at all, this is the real joker in the deck, and the fact that this principle was so easily bargained away says a great deal about the people in power from both political parties. They have accepted the new reality of legalized influence-peddling and are finding ways to prosper in it. This, I guess, is another New Normal in our politics.
I think the crazies will pocket this win and still declare Ryan a pariah sooner or later for not getting them 100% of what they want. But yes, they'll be happy about this.

In any case, I don't believe this crazy scenario floated at The Hill by Bill Owens, a former Democratic congressman:
What would lead one to believe a brokered [2016] GOP convention would result in a Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) [presidential] candidacy? Here's what I see.

We have rumblings from establishment Republicans who have grave concerns about Donald Trump as the potential candidate, and for that matter, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) as well.

There are numerous reports of Republican donors holding back from supporting candidates at the same levels that they supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. As Gregory Devor, a major Republican fundraiser, said, "I cannot commit a dime to anybody because I don't see a future." Translation: There is no candidate who is likely to succeed in the general election.

... If one were to create a storyline with Machiavellian overtones, it might go something like this:

Party insiders, looking at the chaos in the House of Representatives and simultaneously the chaos in the Republican presidential process, ponder to whom they should turn. The obvious choice is Romney, and, maybe as a less obvious choice, Ryan. To set that plot in motion, they create a drama around the selection of the next Speaker of the House, aided by front-runner House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (Calif.) blunder over Benghazi and the consistent chaos created by the Freedom Caucus and other far-right conservatives in the House, and see an opportunity to position Ryan as a savior in the House....
Bill? Stop -- your fillings are picking up signals from the aliens now, so you might want to get your meds rebalanced.

I can imagine the GOP Establishment wanting to stage a brokered convention with Ryan emerging as the nominee, but I can't imagine the crazies accepting it -- and I certainly can't believe that the downfall of both John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy was an elaborate bit of Kabuki theater meant to position Ryan as the party's savior at the 2016 convention. (If the muckamucks are thinking about him, he's well enough known that they didn't need to elevate him to the speakership in order to nominate him.)

This can't work. The nomination of an establishmentarian who didn't win any primaries would make the rank-and-file crazies more furious than they are now; they'd respond by boycotting the entire party up and down the ballot.

Maybe the muckamucks don't grasp that, so maybe they'll want to pull a backroom deal to nominate Ryan -- but they'll do that at their peril. (However, if Jeb Bush were suddenly to make a miraculous comeback and were to lead the race without quite having enough votes to win on the first ballot, the crazies would gladly welcome an alternative chosen by stealth -- but the party elders would want to go with Jeb, so speculation on that scenario is pointless.)

Maybe the party's voters will change by 2020. Maybe the party bosses will figure out a more Establishment-friendly way to structure the primaries by then. (They thought they had the contest rigged this time.) But with things as they are, I still don't see Ryan as a nominee in the near future.

1 comment:

Swellsman said...

I've been thinking for a few weeks now that the GOP will have a "semi-brokered" convention that will end up with Rubio as the party's nominee. I haven't seen anybody who agrees w/me, but here's how I get there:

Roughly speaking, a candidate needs 1200 out of 2400 (rounding off, here) delegate votes to secure the nomination. Party leaders and sundry insiders have about 600 votes that will remained "unpledged" at the beginning of the convention. Since I don't believe any of these votes will go to Trump unless he already has secured the nomination prior to the convention, Trump needs to get 1200 votes - roughly 2/3rds of the votes awarded during the state contests - in order to secure the nomination.

Stated another way, in order to secure the nomination Trump needs to get twice as many delegates as all the other candidates combined. This is possible, I suppose, but it seems unlikely. Which means (b/c I agree that Trump is likely to do better than any other candidate in the state contests) that there will be no confirmed nominee prior to the beginning of the GOP convention.

But the Republicans do not want to actually engage in a "for real" brokered convention - it would look too messy - so they will agree to consolidate around one candidate and cast all their unpledged votes for him (and, in the GOP, it will be a "him").

Their best case scenario is that Rubio earns about 600 votes in the state contests, meaning they can award the thing to him outright during the first round of voting by unanimously casting all the unpledged votes for him - but this would mean that Rubio has managed to be the second-place finisher in terms of pledged delegates ('cause I am figuring on about 800 - 900 delegates, roughly half the votes available, being taken by Trump).

The big threat is that Cruz ends up in second place. Then the GOP would have to make a hard choice: either (i) cast their votes for Cruz during the first round, anointing him the nominee but saving themselves from the messiness of a "for real" brokered convention, or (ii) push the nomination voting into multiple rounds (a "for real" brokered convention) and try to persuade sufficient delegates to switch to Rubio.

Bottom line: if Rubio wins the 25% of pledged delegates necessary to avoid a brokered convention, Rubio becomes the nominee. If Cruz does, the GOP has to choose b/w a candidate they all loathe and despise, and a messy, fractured convention undertaken in the hope of getting a candidate they like.