This is the kind of fantastical speculation I enjoy making, as well as reading -- and it's certainly on the minds of quite a few conservatives, you can bet. First, BooMan, and the backstory has to do with John McCain's lawyering up over his relationship with that Washington lobbyist (no, it's not sexual; just click over for the explanation then pick it back up here):
If John McCain does not emerge as the Republican nominee, there's a good likelihood that the GOP is going to be in for a long, strange ride. Let's walk though this.
If Mike Huckabee wins in Iowa, I expect McCain to surge ahead of Romney in New Hampshire and win that state. This will set up a death match between McCain and Huckabee that will go down to the wire. Giuliani could conceivably get into the mix by winning Florida, but he seems too damaged by recent scandals to have much hope. Fred Thompson will go nowhere.
But if McCain has some bad news in the next three weeks that prevents him from capitalizing on a Huckabee win in Iowa, then Romney will likely prevail in the Granite State. We could easily see McCain, Thompson, and Duncan Hunter drop out after New Hampshire or South Carolina. We could see Giuliani drop out after Florida. And we'll be left with Huckabee, Romney, and Ron Paul. And Ron Paul will have enough money to compete everywhere on Super Duper Tuesday, while Huckabee will not, and Romney will have to spend his own fortune.
Even in this scenario, I do not expect Ron Paul to win the nomination, or even any states (although he could win a couple). But he could easily rack up a fifth of the available delegates in a three-way race. Imagine the Republican convention if Ron Paul has the third biggest block of delegates.
Let's go even further here. Assuming that Romney's delegates are more Mormon than his overall universe of support and that Huckabee's delegates are more Southern Baptist than his overall universe of support, and that Ron Paul's delegates are... well... the most enthusiastic and dedicated of Ron Paul's supporters... the Minneapolis convention is going to be a assembly of the cultural fringe. It's hard to picture your average Martha's Vineyard Republican fitting in, exactly.
The Democratic competition is no less fluid, but all the candidates are at least culturally acceptable to the whole range of the Democratic electorate. Our convention will be one big inclusive feel-good party no matter who wins the nomination.I guess my question is: what will it mean for the GOP over the short to medium term if their convention is completely dominated by Huckabee, Romney, and Paul supporters?
Why, it could mean a brokered convention and perhaps a Newt Gingrich nomination. That kind of deal precludes Paul running third party, especially if he gets promised some plum Cabinet job like Secretary of Commerce. Romney becomes the vice-presidential nominee strictly on the basis of his money, and Huckabee gets to be Secretary of Christianity Implementation.
Maybe Dubya could be a uniter and not a divider after all.
As one of BT's commenters notes, our worst-case November scenario is Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain, and I would add 'with no third-party conservative candidate'. Our generic best-case is anybody vs. Huckabee.
And since this post is about the Repugs, I'm sure I forgot to mention that John Edwards is surging in Iowa while Hillary and Obama beat each other up.