Edwards eyes a brokered convention
Edwards eyes a brokered convention
By Alexander Bolton
Posted: 01/29/08 12:01 AM [ET]
Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has his sights set
on playing kingmaker at the Denver convention in
August, one of his most senior campaign officials
While dismissing suggestions that this implied Edwards
had accepted he was out of contention for the
nomination, Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince
said the candidate would probably get enough delegates
to play a decisive role in tipping the Democratic
nomination under party rules.
Party insiders could also give Edwards the nomination
at a brokered convention if they judged him more
electable in a match-up against GOP front-runner Sen.
John McCain (Ariz.). At a brokered convention, all
bets are off, said Prince.
Prince told reporters in a conference call that in a
worst-case scenario Edwards would control 20 to 25
percent of the Democratic delegates heading into the
convention. He predicted that Sens. Barack Obama
(Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) would each
have 35 to 40 percent of the delegates, well short of
half the 4,049 needed to win the nomination.
The race could leave Obama and Clinton with nearly the
same number of delegates because complex rules would
divide delegates evenly among candidates who win more
than 30 percent in the congressional districts that
make up each state.
Spokesmen for the Obama and Clinton campaigns did not
respond to requests for comment.
Many political observers believe that if Edwards had
the power to pick the Democratic nominee and could not
grab the nomination for himself, he would throw his
support to Obama. During a memorable exchange at a
Democratic debate in New Hampshire this month, Edwards
sided with Obama as a fellow candidate of change and
drew a sharp contrast with Clinton, whom he has
labeled a candidate of the status quo.
Prince argued that since nearly 800 of the delegates
are so-called superdelegates and thus not bound by the
results of any state primary or caucus, a candidate
would have to get 60 percent of all the delegates in
play to be assured of the nomination.
Prince said that Obama or Clinton would have to win
nearly 80 percent of the vote in many congressional
districts around the country in order to win the
nomination outright a difficult achievement
considering how competitive the race has been so far.
Edwardss campaign manager, David Bonior, said on a
conference call with reporters, We have a great shot
to pick up a lot of delegates.
But he refused to say on the conference call how
Edwards would wield his delegates: Were not going to
talk about how were going to use our delegates.
Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at
Georgetown University who specializes in presidential
primary politics, said Edwards could help decide the
If Obama and Clinton come out even after Super
Tuesday and Edwards had 50 delegates, Edwards could
make a difference if [superdelegates] are split, said
Wayne. Edwards is not going to drop out if he can
have an impact.
At the Democratic convention this August, delegates
will be allowed to vote freely even if they are
already pledged to a candidate, Wayne explained. But
he expected that Edwardss delegates would do his
Wayne said that Edwardss delegates have been
hand-picked because of their loyalty.
That loyalty would probably extend to the convention,
though Democrats have a rule that would not impose
loyalty, he explained.
Wayne, however, predicted that either Clinton or Obama
would probably wrap up the nomination before the
convention, but conceded anything is possible.
The scenario of a brokered convention could unfold in
the GOP race, though analysts consider it less likely
because most of the Republican primary states allocate
all delegates to the winner. Unlike at the Democratic
convention, Republican candidates would control the
delegates pledged to them and could give support
directly to a rival.
If either former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) or
McCain, the candidates leading in the delegate count,
fail to open up a commanding lead before the
convention, one of their rivals could have a decisive
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) has seven
delegates to his name and could capture more by
winning in Southern states where evangelical
Christians make up a large percentage of the
electorate. While many states allocate all their
Republican delegates to the statewide winner, several
do so proportionally, opening a door for Huckabee or
former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to pick up
In Alabama, for example, if no candidate wins more
than half the vote, each receives delegates provided
he wins at least 20 percent. In Arkansas, where
Huckabee can expect a strong performance, delegates
are also assigned based on voting percentages if no
candidate wins with more than half. In Florida,
delegates go to any candidate who wins one of the
states 25 congressional districts.
Giuliani is likely to pick up delegates in Florida and
could also win New York and New Jersey depending on
his performance Tuesday in the Sunshine State.
If Huckabee or Giuliani stays in the race long enough
to be able to wield delegates at the GOP convention in
September, yet has no chance of winning the
nomination, many political analysts expect either
would support McCain. Despite the competitive primary,
both candidates have maintained cordial relations with
McCain while fighting bitterly with Romney.