Election 2020

Rubio Gaming Out a Contested Convention

Donors and influential Republicans sat through a presentation by Marco Rubio’s top advisor detailing the mechanics and possible scenarios involved in a contested convention. The meeting took place on Wednesday night at a Manhattan hotel.


As Rubio scrambles for support ahead of Super Tuesday, Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s top adviser, used a Power Point presentation and took questions from attendees to lay out the two courses that Rubio’s quest for the GOP nomination could take in the coming months, two people present told CNN, speaking anonymously to share details from a private meeting.

The first showed the number of states and delegates Rubio would need to clinch the nomination outright before July’s convention. The second was the scenario in which none of the candidates gain the simple majority delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the convention, unleashing a messy and potentially unpredictable battle where multiple candidates are vying for the title.

The meeting comes as Rubio is trying to lock up the support of establishment Republicans looking for an alternative to Trump and Cruz. The Rubio campaign needs to convince donors and GOP power brokers that it has a true path to victory. Trump is heading into Super Tuesday as the undisputed GOP front-runner, having won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and Rubio has not yet won a state.

Sullivan has acknowledged in the past that a brokered convention might be hypothetically possible, but Wednesday’s comments are a concrete indication that the campaign is preparing for such an outcome.

Sullivan gave a “technical” explanation of how a contested or brokered convention would work. According to the sources in the room, the gathering appeared to be a matter-of-fact recognition by the Rubio campaign that a contested convention is very much a possibility.

“One is somebody — Trump or Rubio — wins enough primaries to sew up the nomination in advance of the convention,” one attendee said. “The other is that nobody does, and the two candidates go to the convention.”

This isn’t so much about a brokered convention at this point, but rather an attempt to keep donors interested in giving money to Rubio. Many donors felt burned by Jeb Bush and would rather save their time and money if Rubio had zero chance of winning.

That may be the case, although a brokered convention would be possible with three candidates making strong showings. Cruz is hardly broke and could continue on through at least March. Rubio will also have enough cash to compete in primaries until the end of next month.

But as long as Trump continues to win by double digits, his delegate lead will only grow. There may come a time before the end of March when no realistic shot at the nomination remains for either Cruz or Rubio. At that point, a contested convention becomes impossible. As long as Trump has enough delegates for a first ballot nomination, the prize is his.