On the Fantasy of the Republican White Knight candidate
Since tonight’s speech was given by Mitch Daniels, the oft-mentioned potential white knight beloved of conservative op-ed writers everywhere, I thought it was worth thinking what a potential “white knight scenario” might look like.
First of all, when would it happen? It’s unlikely it would happen anytime soon – filing deadlines are mostly past, and it’s just implausible that anyone would decide to get in the game now when they’d be locked out of competing for most delegates. So the most likely way it would result is a deadlocked nomination contest – ie, candidates are heading to a convention with no one having captured 50% + 1 delegates. This is a Bad Thing. This degree of intraparty division would suggest limited prospects for a candidate that could capture the votes of all relevant party factions – after all, if there was somebody out there obviously fitting the description, he would have run and won.
So what happens next? Well, a lot probably hinges on some technical party regulations concerning delegate apportionment that nobody ever realized would matter. A more thorough writer than me would look them up, but I don’t care, the basic sequence is sensible enough. The first phase will be deal or no deal – the candidates will sit down, each wielding their slate of delegates, and try and work something out. Since the delegates aren’t bound, there’s no guarantee this would go over well with the rank and file, but who knows. The risk is that the divisions that would lead to this situation might make it very difficult for Romney/Gingrich/Paul/Santorum (if that last is still running) to come to a mutually agreeable resolution.
So “deal” is one potential outcome, and I would argue the best. But that doesn’t get you the white knight! The white knight would need to emerge after a “no deal” event, when everything falls apart. The last time this occurred is well-remembered – the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968. This was before the modern primary process emerged, but it does show the potential pitfalls of nominating a candidate without sufficient legitimacy. Large numbers of the rank-and-file wouldn’t accept a nominee no one had ever voted for, and the Republican Party would rip itself apart on live TV. I don’t even know if a white knight successfully emerging is possible, but it seems unlikely.
Long story short…the chances are very, very close to 100% that Mitt, Newt, Ron, or Rick will be the nominee. Any scenario not involving them should be too scary for Republicans to think about.