21 Mar 2016

Close, Donald, But Very Probably No Cigar

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ThomasDewey
Thomas E. Dewey

S.A. Miller, at the Washington Times, explains that close has very commonly historically proven to be not good enough in nominating convention delegate votes. Donald Trump would by no means be the first candidate to arrive at a GOP convention with more votes than his rival candidates, but short of the necessary majority. It has frequently happened that the front runner then proved unable to attract the necessary extra votes and another man became the nominee. Just ask Thomas E. Dewey.

If Donald Trump finds himself in a contested convention this summer, a looming question for the Republican presidential front-runner will be whether he is a Lincoln or a Dewey.

Mr. Trump obviously would prefer to follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, who emerged the nominee from a brokered Republican convention in 1860 and went on to win the White House and become one of America’s most revered presidents.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the experience of Thomas E. Dewey at contested Republican conventions is more common and far less inspirational. The front-runner heading into a contested Republican convention has never won the White House and most of the time does not even secure the party’s nomination. …

“The notion that you go in with a plurality, therefore you deserve the nomination is just flat wrong,” said Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Dallas-based think tank Institute for Policy Innovation.

“It would not surprise me if we go to a contested convention and Trump ends up losing in that contested convention,” he said. “But I think it is too early to say. We have to see if the voters begin to gravitate toward him, as they typically do in presidential elections, and even if he doesn’t get 1,237, if the momentum is clearly behind him, I think it would be hard to deny him the nomination.”

Still, Mr. Matthews stressed that Mr. Trump will have to close the deal on the convention floor.

“He’s got to make the case to the delegates there,” he said. “He needs to persuade the other delegates that they should change their vote to him.”

Dewey ended up like most candidates who enter the Republican convention with the most delegates but short a majority — a position Mr. Trump could easily find himself in July in Cleveland — either passed over for the nomination or the loser in the general election.

Dewey experienced both outcomes. He was denied the nomination in 1940 and received it in 1948 only to lose that November to Democrat Harry S. Truman, despite the famously erroneous banner headline on the front page of The Chicago Daily Tribune.

In 1940 and eight years later, Dewey had a plurality of delegates when the convention opened.

In the history of the Republican Party, there have been 10 conventions where no candidate arrived with a majority of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot.

At seven of those brokered conventions, the candidate who arrived with the most delegates did not win the nomination. Half the time, the nomination went to the candidate who had the fewest delegates.

Lincoln was one of the candidates with the fewest delegates at the start of the convention. Another was Rep. James A. Garfield of Ohio, who entered the Chicago convention with no delegates but got the nomination after 36 ballots, the longest convention vote in Republican history.

In all three cases, when the candidates with the most delegates at the start of a contested convention emerged as the nominee, that candidate lost in the general election. Dewey shares that dubious distinction with Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes and U.S. Sen. James G. Blaine of Maine.

Read the whole thing.

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