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What Are the Chances of a Republican White Knight?

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Mitt Romney may be the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, but the campaign has been so bizarre that anything is possible this year, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

The idea probably is somewhere between nutty and delusional, but given the weird ups and downs this cycle, nutty isnít impossible.

As Republican insiders of various ideological bent, from the more moderate to the uncompromisingly conservative, watch the presidential nominating process with increasing alarm, there is more than a whiff of talk about a white knight who could rescue his party from defeat by jumping into the presidential race late and riding away with the GOP nomination.

Having done this for more than three decades, Iíve heard talk of a deadlocked convention before but never actually seen one as an adult. I donít really ever expect to witness one, with the nominating process being what it now is.

And yet, consider this year: The winner of the Ames straw poll finished last in the Iowa caucuses; a never-elected pizza entrepreneur shot to the front of the pack and almost as quickly flamed out and exited the race; and a former Speaker who was all but eliminated ó twice! ó as a serious candidate has suddenly re-emerged as one of the two major contenders for the nomination.

In other words, this year has been so bizarre that anyone who suggests that a white knight or a deadlocked convention is impossible simply doesnít understand that all of the old rules have been broken and anything is possible this year.

So letís get the caveat out of the way right now. The chance of a white knight jumping into the race at this point is small. The chance of a deadlocked convention, or at least a convention that actually picks the partyís nominee, is almost equally small.

But in a year when the impossible seems to happen almost weekly, it makes sense to at least take a look at the possibility of each.

First, the GOP presidential filing deadline will not yet have passed in 16 states when voters go to the polls in Florida on Tuesday. Those 16 states account for more than 800 delegates, more than a third of the total number of delegates to the convention.

Some filing deadlines approach quickly after Florida, which could set off a panic if former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) wins.

The deadline for New York (95 delegates), for example, is Feb. 9. It is Feb. 10 for Indiana (46) and Feb. 14 for Pennsylvania (72). After that, there is a break until late February for Delaware (17) and North Carolina (55).

Filing deadlines in delegate-rich states such as California (172), Ohio (66) and New Jersey (50) donít roll around until late March or early April.

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