It's not just journalists and political nerds fantasizing about a brokered convention for Republicans in August. Now, even Sarah Palin is talking about it. The idea is that if none of the candidates is able to win a majority of delegates before the convention in Tampa, the presidential nominee will be picked through rounds of votes after lots of deal-making and alliance-shifting. It took 16 days and 103 votes for Democrats to pick their nominee in 1924, The Washington Post explains; Ronald Reagan threatened to steal some of Gerald Ford's delegates in 1976, but failed. Most Republican officials say there's almost no chance of it happening ("Winning Powerball two days in a row is probably easier than any of these scenarios," a Republican National Committee spokesman told the Post). But don't be too sad, nerds. A version of the brokered convention is happening already.
Just like in the olden times, you've got people switching sides, like when former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine abandoned Romney for Santorum. More fun is watching the second-tier candidates have formed -- and broken -- alliances to try and block the frontrunner from winning.
Back in January, it looked like there was a relationship between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. "As the Republican race heads into what may be a fateful week for the contenders, one of the most curious aspects of the competition is the tacit alliance that seems to exist between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum," Commentary's Jonathan S. Tobin wrote January 9. "The two rivals seemed to be very cozy with each other during the debates this past weekend, with Gingrich frequently praising Santorum and the latter gratefully acknowledging the praise."
But while Gingrich went after Romney, Santorum kept his options open. At a late January debate, he praised both Gingrich and Romney: "Can we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of Congress to go out and advise companies -- and that's not the worst thing in the world -- and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard and he's going out and working hard?"
Santorum has given up on niceness towards Romney, however. And he was never nice to Ron Paul, whom he called "disgusting."
Think Progress pointed out that in 20 debates, Paul never attacked Romney. When the two tag-teamed their attacks on Santorum, the former senator accused them of conspiring against him. Paul was running ads against Santorum in states where he wasn't even competing! There was some speculation Paul was doing it to get his son, Sen. Rand Paul, on Romney's shortlist of running mates. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin said the charge was ridiculous -- Paul wasn't doing it to get delegates, but because Santorum had been rude to him. Either way, the outcome is the same: Helping Mitt to hurt Rick.
But it looks like Paul's friendship with Romney has ended. Politico's James Hohmann reports that Paul is running an ad on Fox in Washington State attacking Romney. It calls Paul's opponents "three of a kind" who want "more big government, more mandates, less freedom."
This one was even more one-way than Newt's courting of Santorum. Gingrich has effusively praised Paul in debates. Talking about government involvement in health care, Gingrich said at the last primary debate February 22:
I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously...
I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we're now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought -- and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been -- with the possible exception of Congressman Paul -- than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years.
Ron Paul, ahead of his time? That's about the highest praise you can get from Gingrich, who considers himself a futurist, aside from maybe "excellent historian." But Paul made it clear the feeling isn't mutual. Just look at his face as Gingrich talked about Iran during the same debate: