Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
One of New York’s representatives to the 2012 Republican National Convention was standing in the lobby at the state delegation’s hotel.
He was asked if he was heading to the arena for the day’s proceedings. No, he replied confidentially, he saw no point acting as a studio prop for the TV cameras.
That convention, held in Tampa, proved typical. All was scripted in advance, right down to the moment of the balloon release.
Four years later, those GOP delegates’ actions could prove crucial, as chances mount for what some call an open convention and others call chaos.
If controversial front-runner Donald Trump falls short of nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland, an old-fashioned floor fight could ensue.
In Tennessee last week, Trump partisans threw a fit over the state party’s delegate picks, claiming “pretend” delegates had been planted.
The merits of the claim are a he-said, she-said affair, but suffice it to say that this kind of suspicion and maneuvering can spread.
Suddenly the dry details of delegate selection become relevant, if not interesting.
New York Republicans note their state party is picking delegates differently this year — under rules put in place before Trump was even a hot item.
The process starts in earnest April 19 when registered Republicans vote for candidates in the primary. Each of the state’s 27 congressional districts gets three delegates.
They’ll be apportioned based on the results in each district.
Then, with ballot results in hand, state committee members in each district will meet and choose delegates for the candidates.
They’ll be pledged to their designated candidates — but only for the first ballot.
“That follows the national rules,” said a GOP official. “No one imagined we would not have a nominee by this point. At any rate, more of the rank-and-file party leadership will be going to the convention this time — as opposed to wealthy friends of the candidates and the candidates’ personal picks.”
What would happen in the New York delegation if the conflict goes to a second or third or fourth ballot becomes anyone’s guess. Members would presumably caucus and try to reach consensus on a strategy.
History buffs find fun recalling the 1920 GOP convention in Chicago, where newspaper publisher Warren G. Harding took the lead on the ninth ballot and clinched the nomination on the tenth.
Some Republicans still see a compromise candidate in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). He’s poured water on the idea, but then, he postured that way before becoming speaker. Before that, of course, he was Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate for vice president.
The Ryan scenario has fueled a lot of speculation this week.
Who knows? It may be a while before GOP delegates feel like seat-fillers again.