Time Magazine asks the "What if?" question and finds a split Republican convention a real possibility.
Consider the 21 GOP primaries and caucuses approaching fast on February 5. Of the group, 11 of the states are winner-take-all contests, meaning, in general, that whoever gets the most of votes in any given state gets all of that state's delegates. February 5 isn't just an effective national primary; it is supposed to work like a booster rocket to the nomination. Win big on February 5 and you never have to look back.Meanwhile, Mark Steyn declares Senator John McCain the likely winner, and a national candidate.
But that booster effect tends to work best when there are only one or two candidates in the race for the nomination. If three or four candidates are still in the fray on February 5, the arrangement could have the effect of further splintering the race rather than consolidating support for a winner.
The likelihood of a split decision is enhanced by several other factors:
First, so many big and expensive states are in play on February 5 that no single Republican contender has the cash to compete in them all. Which means every Republican is likely to concentrate his time and money on their five or six most favorable targets.
Second, regional identities could hasten the divide-and-conquer approach. Under this scenario, each candidate plays — for reasons of time, money and simplicity — to his geographical strength. That has happened in the past in big, multi-candidate, multi-state primaries. Given the nature of the field - one candidate from New York, another from the Southwest; a third from the heartland and a fourth who's got both cultural links to the intermountain West and a record in New England - it could well happen again.
One lesson of the McCain candidacy is you have to compete. I'm no fan of the Senator, but unlike every other campaign his supporters don't send out emails explaining why this midwestern evangelical state or that northeastern libertarian state or this decaying rustbelt state or that Mormon-infested patch of southwestern desert or this or that Bible Belt swamp isn't typical of the real Republican base and so it makes sense not to compete there. Even Iowa, which McCain dissed, he managed to do in a way that made it look like a principled stand ("Thanks, but I ain't drinkin' your stinkin' ethanol"), thereby mitigating any poor result - and in the end he performed relatively impressively anyway. What I mean is, unlike Rudy or Mitt, he somehow manages to get rewarded even for flippin' the bird at some of these electorates.
In that sense, McCain's is a genuine national candidacy.