Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union, has said that Republican turmoil might lead to a brokered convention in which Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, would emerge as a “possible alternative” party nominee.
Mr Cardenas, who is running this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a gathering in Washington of some 10,000 conservatives, told MailOnline that it was not certain that one of the four current Republican candidates would emerge victorious.
His comments came as Republicans fretted publicly about the perceived weaknesses of Mitt Romney, the establishment choice and frontrunner, Rick Santorum, surprise winner in three states on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Al Cardenas. Photo: Human Events.
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and younger brother of President George W. Bush, has repeatedly said he will not run in 2012. He is one of a number of senior figures who disappointed activists and party officials alike by staying on the sidelines.
“We'll know more in the next few weeks,” said Mr Cardenas. “The pressure’s already been on Mitt Romney to close the sale... and he hasn’t.” A split verdict on “Super Tuesday” on March 6th, when 10 states vote, could lead to a surprise at the Republican convention in Tampa in August, he suggested.
Just over an hour after his interview with MailOnline, Mr Cardenas took to the CPAC stage to introduce Mr Romney, who sought to allay the fears of activists, who view him as a moderate or changeling, using the words “conservative” or “conservatism” some 24 times.
The last time a Republican nomination battle went to the party convention was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford assembled a coalition of delegates to defeat Ronald Reagan at the first ballot.
There has not been a brokered Republican convention, where no candidate wins the first ballot, since 1948, when Thomas Dewey came out on top in the third ballot.
“March 6th is really the telling date as to whether we have a chance of a brokered convention or not,” said Mr Cardenas. “If Mitt wins Arizona and Michigan at the end of February and runs with the vast majority of delegates on March 6th, I still think he could end it early.
“If there's a mixed bag, if he loses Michigan or Arizona and he wins one or two [on March 6th] and the other states are spread around you might just as well get into a convention where nobody has a majority of delegates.
“And then you might see the possibility of two of the four candidates making a deal, a ticket, things of that nature. It starts getting exciting.” If no deal could be struck then a dark horse could step in on a second ballot, when delegates pledged to candidates would be free to vote as they wished.
“That’s when you start thinking of a Jeb Bush or someone like that could maybe come in as a possible alternative,” said Mr Cardenas, who also hails from Florida.