The Associated Press’s “big story” Thursday morning was about the prospect of a brokered Republican convention, which the story's author, Steve Peoples, reinforced in an early-afternoon tweet.
I just asked Marco Rubio about a brokered convention: "I don’t think it necessarily is negative ... Whatever it is, we’re prepared for it"— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) February 11, 2016
I think Time magazine’s Zeke Miller spoke for all journalists when he responded with this:
A brokered convention is the Loch Ness Monster of American politics. We've all heard the legends, but most of us have never covered one. Despite the inevitable whispering every four years, there hasn't been a convention that wasn't a preordained coronation since 1976, when Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent president Gerald Ford. But even that event isn't universally recognized as a "brokered" convention — it's often described as "contested" — because Ford, despite arriving without enough delegates to have the nomination locked up, wound up winning on the first ballot. There hasn't been a multiple-ballot vote since 1952, when Adlai Stevenson earned the Democratic nod in the third round.
The possibility of a contested GOP nominating session has been raised before in the current cycle. It was the subject of stories in November and December and has probably come up in countless private conversations. But Thursday's AP report seems a bit more concrete because it reflects the fractured state of affairs after actual voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, and features an on-the-record statement by Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign manager that he "would be surprised if it's not May or the convention" before the nomination is settled.
I wrote last week about the media's embrace of the lengthy-nominating-battle storyline. A brokered convention would be the ultimate ending to that. In fact, it's hard to imagine anything more compelling — anything, except maybe ...
... a viable third-party candidate! We might get one of those, too, in the form of billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The possibility is so exciting that it "has reporters salivating," in the words of Politico's Jack Shafer.
Cable news and the Sunday morning shows will punch and gouge each other to give him a platform.
A vast buffet of Bloomberg stories are there for the grabbing should Bloomberg announce. Stories about his money, his New York City mayoralty, his high-voltage wonkery, his money, his wacky centrism, his media empire, his personal relationships, his money, his crusades against soda, guns and trans fat, and of course, his money. The New York press corps, already the beneficiary of a Trump candidacy that has permitted them to recycle decades of celebrity real-estate reporting into their Trump campaign coverage, will win similar residuals when Bloomberg announces.
The beauty of the Bloomberg candidacy from a reporter’s point of view is the breadth and heft of the paper trail that flows regally behind him. No reporter assigned to the Bloomberg-for-president beat need ever go hungry.
Neither the Bloomberg run nor the brokered convention has actually happened yet, so perhaps the media aren't quite in heaven yet. Maybe we're just at the pearly gate.
Of course, it's possible — maybe even probable — that neither of these things will happen. Of the two, Bloomberg's independent bid appears more likely, if only because it would require just one man's decision. A brokered convention would require millions of voters all over the country to remain so split over the next few months that more than one candidate could stake a legitimate claim to the nomination.
For now, both scenarios might best be described as narrative tools that illustrate the competitive, unpredictable nature of the 2016 campaign. That the media can write about either one and have it not seem totally outlandish proves the point.
It's a little indulgent, however, to devote too much attention to speculative plotlines that are fun for us but not terribly useful for voters at this stage. (And The Fix certainly has a plank in our eyes on this count.) Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief David Lauter used the hashtag #wishprojection last week to describe the media's hope for/prediction of hard-fought nominating contests in both major parties. I think it applies here, too.