DemDaily: The Brokered Convention

February 11, 2020

With today's New Hampshire primary contest, the presidential primary season is well underway, and the focus shifts to the state-by-state count of delegates that will lead to the election of our presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

A field of five top Democratic contenders came out of the Iowa Caucuses and, along with the separate, media-driven candidacy of Michael Bloomberg gaining traction, it is becoming increasingly more likely that no one candidate will go into the convention with enough delegates to capture the nomination outright. Under that scenario, Democrats would be forced into a contested, or brokered convention.

The candidate who secures a simple majority (50%+1) of the delegate votes in the presidential primaries wins the nomination. In 2020, the magic number is 1,991 to win on the first ballot.

(Image: Lyne Lucien/Daily Beast)

Counting Delegates
Over 4,500 delegates will attend the July 13-16, 2020 convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, prepared to cast their vote for the Democratic nominee who will take on Donald Trump in November.

How It Works
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) allocates the number of delegates for each state based on the state's electoral votes, the average of the vote for the Democratic candidates in the two most recent presidential elections, and the timing of the state primary or caucus.

National convention delegates are then awarded to presidential candidates based on the percentage of the vote they win in a state primary or caucus. A candidate is only eligible to receive a share of the pledged delegates at stake if they win at least 15% of the vote.

Based on the results of the February 3, 2020 Iowa Caucus, Pete Buttigieg was awarded 13 convention delegates, Bernie Sanders 12, Elizabeth Warren 8 and Joe Biden 6. A partial recanvass is being conducted.

Those Pledged Delegates, who cast the vote for the nomination at the convention, must express a presidential candidate preference as a condition of their election.

Allotted Delegates Per State (Ballotpedia/Click)

Pledged Delegates are those elected at the district level, or are pledged Party Leaders and Elected officials (PLEOs), At-Large or Alternates.

A second category, unpledged or Automatic Delegates, represent longer-term institutional members of the Party, including DNC members elected to four-year terms at the local level.

They also include Democratic Senate and House Members, Governors and distinguished party leaders like former Presidents, Vice Presidents and Party Chairs.

Under the new rules adopted in 2018 by the DNC, Automatic Delegates, also formerly known as "super delegates," are convention delegates, and have a vote on all party matters, but do not have a vote on the first ballot in the Democratic presidential nominating process.

However, if the nomination fight goes to a second ballot, known as a "brokered convention," then they may cast a potentially decisive vote for the candidate of their choosing at that time.

The Brokered Convention

A brokered convention occurs when no single candidate has won enough [pledged/committed] delegates during the presidential primaries and caucuses to have a majority during the first vote at a party's nominating convention.

Adlai Stevenson was the beneficiary of a brokered convention in 1952

If a second ballot is required, then pledged delegates are freed from their commitment to vote for their first-ballot contender, and may cast their vote for a different candidate.

This is where the brokering comes in among coalitions and campaigns to put one candidate over the top. It is also where negotiations over the potential vice presidential nominee can play a major role.

While there are always discussions of a potentially brokered convention every presidential cycle -- a political junkie's dream -- historically they are very rare.

For Republicans, the last was in 1948, also the first televised convention, when Governor Thomas Dewey (NY) won the nomination on the third ballot over Senator Robert Taft (Ohio) and former Governor Harold Stassen (MN). Dewey later lost the general election contest to Harry S. Truman (D-MO).

Ronald Reagan (R-CA) lost his bid to unseat incumbent President Gerald Ford at the 1976 Republican Convention. Because Ford won on the first ballot, it was not technically considered to have been "brokered."

For the Democrats, it was 1952, when Senator Estes Kefauver (TN) led the race after the primaries, but not the first floor ballot. On the third ballot Governor Adlai Stevenson (IL), with the backing of outgoing President Truman, emerged with the nomination. Stevenson went on to lose the general election to Dwight D. Eisenhower (R-KS).

2020 Convention
We still have 48 state primaries or caucuses, and contests in the five US territories and Democrats Abroad between now and the convention.

While the field can be expected to narrow after the March 3rd super Tuesday primaries, history has already been made in the numbers and diversity of contenders, as well as in the money spent by the players. We will see where history takes us.

DemList will keep you informed on all aspects of the presidential election and 2020 Convention, and will once host the DemList Convention Calendar. Contribute to help us get the DemList Convention Calendar up by the end of February!
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Kimberly Scott
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