Ted Cruz: 'contested' convention OK, 'brokered' convention not

Jeffrey Engel and Aaron Crawford of SMU's Center for Presidential History talk about Ted Cruz wanting a "contested" convention but not a "brokered" one.

By Dylan Baddour

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday in an interview with Fox News, which aired Wednesday evening, that he would be OK with a "contested convention," but not a "brokered convention."

The two terms have become prominent in political buzz as it grows increasingly likely that no candidate will claim an outright majority of delegates before the GOP convention in July. In that case, delegates would re-vote to pick a winner.

Cruz previously has asserted that a brokered convention would prompt a voter "revolt," but he told Fox's Megyn Kelly at a town hall interview in Raleigh, North Carolina that, "a contested convention is a different thing."

So, what's the difference? According to Jeff Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, "In a contested convention, no one shows up with all the delegates they need (to win the nomination). In a brokered convention, people begin cutting deals."

In other words, the delegates supporting third- and fourth-place candidates would have to choose which of the top two candidates to support in a contested convention.

"All of these definitions are kind of squishy," said Aaron Crawford, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History. "I'm pretty sure that no one knows exactly what they mean yet. They're going to have to figure out the rules."

A brokered convention implies that a backroom meeting of party bosses would make arrangements to pick a candidate — plausibly one that wasn't even on the primary ballot. That hasn't happened in modern political history, and it's hard to imagine how it would work. 

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