Political consultant and conservative activist Doug Guetzloe thinks Florida could play a crucial role at a brokered Republican convention -- and not just because the convention will be held in Tampa this summer. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).
ORLANDO – The state of Florida could prove to be pivotal in the presidential race this year, though not because of the recent Republican presidential primary, or because Florida is considered a swing state in November.
Instead, said political consultant and conservative activist Doug Guetzloe, the state may hand the Republican Party a new nominee this summer if the four remaining candidates fail to garner the support they need to win the nomination outright.
“We could be headed for a brokered convention,” Guetzloe said, “and at that point it could pave the way for the party to nominate someone else, like Jeb Bush.”
Jeb Bush was Florida’s Republican governor from 1999 until 2007, and he left office with a high approval rating, a legacy of tackling education reform, and a solid base of support within his party.
“Jeb Bush still has a strong following in the party,” Guetzloe said.
Guetzloe, the founder of the anti-tax grassroots organization Axe the Tax, a consultant to the Tea Party of Florida, and the host of The Guetzloe Report on the Phoenix Network in downtown Orlando, said if anything, the GOP presidential primary campaign has gotten more muddled and confusing, leading to the possibility that none of the remaining candidates will win enough delegates to score a first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 27-30.
“I have no idea who is going to win,” Guetzloe said.
Florida was supposed to have been a pivotal state, perhaps a decisive one. That was the case in 2008, when Arizona Sen. John McCain lost the Iowa presidential caucus to former Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee, then rebounded with victories in the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina. McCain’s victory in Florida sealed his lead.
This year, though, the states haven’t gravitated toward one candidate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was declared the winner in the Iowa Caucus, then won an easy victory in neighboring New Hampshire.
But shortly afterwards, the final count in Iowa showed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had edged out Romney, and then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary.
Romney’s victory in Florida was considered a critical win that slowed down Gingrich’s momentum. Santorum finished far behind, and some critics were declaring Romney the likely nominee.
Then Santorum racked up wins in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, and is now leading Romney in polls in Michigan, the state where Romney was raised and where his father, George Romney, was governor. Michigan primary voters head to the polls on Tuesday.
Gingrich, on the other hand, hopes to score victories in southern states like Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma that are participating in the upcoming Super Tuesday contests on March 6, when 10 states will be voting.
Guetzloe said Romney is clearly struggling to win over the party’s conservative base.
“He’s too much of the Massachusetts moderate,” Guetzloe said. “He’s got ObamaCare and RomneyCare,” a reference to Romney support as the Bay State’s governor for a universal health care plan that required residents to buy health insurance if they don’t already have it, or pay a fine – provision picked up by President Obama and Democrats in Congress for their federal health care program.
Romney has also made a series of misstatements, Guetzloe said, that appear to make him seem out of touch with ordinary blue collar workers – a group that Santorum is now doing quite well with.
So it’s not clear if any of the candidates – including the fourth one, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who hasn’t won a single state or caucus yet but remains in the race – can score enough victories to build momentum as the inevitable nominee.
That’s led to speculation that the Republicans might be facing a brokered convention in August – a concept that Guetzloe said looks more realistic every day.
When a single presidential candidate fails to win enough delegates through the state primaries and caucus systems to head into the convention with a pre-existing majority, the convention is then “brokered.” Once the first ballot has occurred and no candidate has a majority of the delegates’ votes, the nomination is then decided through additional re-votes – when a new candidate could emerge and win support of the regular delegates who had been pledged to the candidate who had won their respective state’s primary or caucus election. Those delegates are “released” after the first ballot and able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of balloting.
The last time a Republican presidential convention opened without the nominee having a clear lead in the delegate count was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford had a lead among delegates over his primary opponent, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, but not enough to win the nomination outright. But it failed to become a brokered convention after Ford got the needed support on the first ballot to edge Reagan.
The most infamous brokered convention was the 1924 Democratic National Convention which produced a deadlock between the two frontrunners, Alfred E. Smith and William McAdoo, who fought it out for a record 102 ballots. Finally a dark horse candidate, John W. Davis, was chosen on the 103rd ballot as a compromise. In November 1924, Davis lost badly to President Calvin Coolidge.
Guetzloe thinks if Jeb Bush gets the nomination at a brokered convention, the results would be radically different in November. The former governor would be able to take Florida out of play as a competitive state for President Obama, Guetzloe said, and likely make the rest of the south solidly Republican as well. In 2008, Obama carried several southern states, including Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

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