I've noticed a lot of talk and a lot of hope being pinned on a brokered convention as possibly our last best hope to keep Romney from being nominated. My advice: don't bet on it. Oh sure, Romney might very well be denied enough delegates to ensure the nomination before the convention (all it probably takes is Newt or Santorum dropping out and endorsing the other) but I fail to see the possibility of him not being nominated in Tampa in such a scenario.
Based on both his hard bound and total delegate lead, it seems very likely that he will remain the leader going into the convention whether or not he gets to the magic number of 1144 delegates. For those of you who haven't sunk into the weeds (there actually is a nice short and sweet primer here), hard bound delegates are the delegates that are legally bound to vote for you at the convention, at least on the first ballot. For those that aren't hard bound, as a candidate you can never be sure you are going to get their vote. For example, CNN is currently counting 7 delegates for Romney, Paul and Santorum because of the results of the Iowa caucus and are including them in their total delegate count (note that other sites will sometimes have different totals). But the actual delegate allocation doesn't even exist yet. What happens in Iowa is that the caucuses pick delegates for county conventions who then pick delegates for congressional district conventions who then pick delegates for the state convention, which is set for June 16th. So we won't even know what the Iowa delegation will look like for another 3 months and it wouldn't surprise me if either Romney, Paul or Santorum end up with many more or fewer delegates than they were initially supposed to.
Anyway, back to my point, if you calculate the number of delegates that either Newt or Santorum would need from now on just to catch up with Romney you will see how difficult it would be. On a hard bound basis, I calculate that there are 1,206 delegates to be chosen and Romney currently has a lead of 219 delegates over Newt and 232 over Santorum (he is behind Newt because of his wins in caucuses that don't have hard bound delegates). So from here on out, Newt would have to beat Romney by over 18 points and Santorum needs to beat Romney by over 19 points just to catch up with him (to get the nomination each would actually have to get over 87% of the hard bound delegates from now on). I don't really see either beating Romney 60-40, especially when you have states like New York coming up, a big state where Romney is currently leading by 15 points. On a total delegate basis the numbers get a smidge easier, at least for Santorum, who needs to beat Romney by 16 points to catch him (Newt needs to beat him by 20 points). So as you can see, barring an epic meltdown, it seems very likely that, even if he is not the official nominee, Romney will at least be the leader and possibly be very close to the magic number of 1144.
At that point, the brokers at the convention will have to decide one of two things, twist enough arms and make enough deals to get Romney over the top or go with someone who isn't running (I don't think the brokers will ever favor a Newt or a Santorum at the convention, especially if they are behind Romney in the delegate totals). And to get Romney over the top might not even be very hard at all. First, there will be the Ron Paul delegates. I actually agree that there is something fishy going on between Romney and Paul. It probably won't take much additional cajoling to make Paul delegates suddenly vote for Romney. Second, all those unpledged delegates will be linked to the establishment in one way or another, otherwise they probably wouldn't be delegates in the first place. And if the establishment can do anything is make promises and collect on favors. And given the unattractiveness of the alternative, they will be promising a lot.
Now, to the alternative. What about picking some consensus candidate who is not Romney and running him under the GOP banner? There are two major problems with that. First, the calendar. The GOP convention is supposed to start on August 27th, just 10 weeks before election day on November 6th. That is 10 weeks to fundraise for the campaign and introduce the candidate to America. That will make first impressions and first interviews that much more important and unfortunately people's first impressions will be of backroom deals and questions of fairness from the press. Instead of the economy or Obamacare or Iran being the main issue, it's going to be "what exactly was the process whereas you were selected to be the GOP nominee despite doing zero campaigning over the last year and a half and having received zero actual votes from GOP voters". You can see it now can't you? It would be a public relations disaster. And let's not forget how pissed off all the Newt, Santorum, Romney and Paul people will be that after all their hard work, a usurper, who had zero vetting and participated in zero debates, got the nod. 10 weeks might not be enough for their wounds to heal and vote for the nominee.
The second major problem is that there isn't a wonderful, magical Republican who can come in, unite the establishment and the Tea Party (as well as economic, social and foreign policy conservatives), be credible with the media and with enough national exposure already to hit the ground running. They just don't exist. Sarah Palin? No way the establishment will go for that. They hate her as much, or even more, than they hate Newt. The two of them make the establishment batsh*t crazy, which is why we love them but unfortunately, that doesn't lead to a nod at a brokered convention. Jeb Bush? I think a good number of the party will bolt on having another Bush carry the GOP banner. It just stinks of elitism and dynasticism. Like we are some banana republic or hereditary monarchy. Paul Ryan? While eloquent and with national exposure, he is also just a Congressman with zero administrative or foreign policy experience, who has had some questionable votes in the past which will upset many in the Tea Party. He voted for both TARP and the auto bailouts for heaven's sake. Chris Christie? Please. He is pretty much a guy who thinks like Mitt Romney but pretends to be a Newt Gingrich. He is very questionable on global warming, abortion and he has raised fees. Plus, he has only been Governor for a total of 2 years at this point. Mitch Daniels? While economically conservative, there is a lot of question as to what he actually thinks about social issues and foreign policy issues (he wants a social "truce" and might be a Dick Lugar foreign policy Republican). I do realize that pretty much all of these candidates would be better than Romney, but would the brokers at the convention think that they will be a better candidate than Romney given that they are unvetted, have zero dollars in their _____ for President fund and all have their own flaws that would have to be papered over real quick? I don't think so.
Now I am not saying you should give up. Personally, I would still rather see a brokered convention than a Romney walk to the nomination simply because at least there would be a chance, albeit minuscule, of something good happening. I just won't get my hopes up.