By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: GOP has history of convention dramas

For all the spectacle and angst of the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign, we may be headed to an even more gripping turn of political events: a brokered GOP convention July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio.

After one convention ballot, delegates are released from their voting pledges, and anyone can become a compromise nominee: Ted Cruz, John Kasich, even someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who hasn’t even been in the race. Discussion of that possible scenario has become an overriding theme for people watching the ongoing Republican primary race.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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GOP delegates in Cleveland will have two options: either crown a nominee who has garnered a majority of party delegates through the state primary election system, or select someone they believe can best represent the party and has a chance of winning in November.

Political insiders are saying if Donald Trump arrives in Cleveland without a majority of delegates, he will not be nominated. Period. That’s drama enough in itself, but the situation could get even more interesting if delegates so dislike Ted Cruz — presumably the runner-up party candidate — that they gravitate toward another more acceptable alternative to Trump.

It’s far from the first time for that kind of political maneuvering. In fact, Republicans have held 10 “brokered conventions” in history, the last in 1952. The most notable such event happened in 1860 when a former congressman from Illinois arrived in Chicago with just 22 percent of GOP delegates secured, trailing leader William Seward’s 37 percent. After three ballots, delegates nominated Abraham Lincoln, who, of course, became our 16th and a most-revered president.

Six GOP candidates nominated in those 10 brokered conventions went on to win the presidency.

Consider the 1940 GOP race, when Wendell Willkie of Indiana — a former Democrat who became a Republican just one year earlier — began the convention with only 11 percent of delegates. Thomas Dewey of New York came in with 37 percent, and Robert Taft of Ohio trailed at 20 percent.

Six ballots later, delegates chose Willkie to represent the party, along with vice presidential candidate Sen. Charles McNary of Oregon. Five months later, however, that GOP team lost handily to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It may be mid-June, including the all-important California primary on June 7, before we know how Republican politics will shape up for Cleveland in July. Meanwhile, we continue moving toward what may become one of the most dramatic party conventions in U.S. history.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.

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