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Special Report

Possibility of brokered GOP convention?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 21, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Currently there are four men trying to get to that house on the GOP side. Could there be more? The USA Today/Gallup poll -- a couple of interesting questions -- is the GOP presidential campaign hurting the party? There you see, not hurting, 57 percent. Next question, Republican nomination, better for the candidate to win during the primary -- 66 percent in this poll said that, and 29 percent said let the convention pick. It's been decades since there was a truly brokered convention, the most notable, 1940 when Wendell Wilkie emerged as the Republican nominee. He had actually been a Democratic delegate in 1932 -- a little trivia there.

What is a brokered convention? What is a contested convention? What does it mean and why is it being talked about? Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, it's being talked about because this race is going on longer than people expected and Mitt Romney is having trouble sewing this up. A brokered convention, technically, is when somebody brokers a deal. We don't have brokers anymore, those are the people who could go into the back room and smoke some cigars and come out with a nominee. You could have a convention that's contested, meaning somebody doesn't show up in Tampa with 1,144 delegates, which is what you need to be the nominee. If somebody comes in without that number he's gonna have to convince somebody else to release their delegates to him. There could be multiple ballots. That would be an extraordinary spectacle.

There's plenty of time between the end of the primaries and the convention for that kind of horse trading to go on. It doesn't necessary have to happen on the convention floor.

BAIER: So let's just say brokered is likely out of the question. Contested maybe more of a chance but, still not probable. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I would say it's still unlikely, and probably you could say very unlikely. And the idea that another candidate would get in at this point, it's possible, theoretically possible. But the problem is for Republicans is there's no other candidate. Everybody who has been talked about has said I'm not interested, and at this point I think you have to believe they're really not interested in this.

There are two reasons though that I think this contest will go on for a long time and it could ultimately result in a contested convention, one is momentum and the other is proportionality. Momentum we haven't seen much, and it doesn't last, doesn't mean anything. So one candidate will win one week and two weeks later they lose. And every time we thought somebody was building momentum, the reverse has happened.

Proportionality -- the way that Republicans are conducting this race is very different from the way that they've done this in the past. And these contests coming up from this point forward basically, are going to be, with the exception of Arizona -- March on, are going to be giving -- allocating delegates on a proportional basis, which means that there is no incentive whatsoever, as long as a candidate can buy a plane ticket to the next state, there's no incentive whatsoever to get out before the convention.

BAIER: David?

DAVID DRUCKER, REPORTER, ROLL CALL: Steve makes some good points. And I would add that if we actually were to get to a contested convention I think Republicans would be in a world of trouble for November. First of all, you would have the whole summer go by with no real campaign that was building up and getting ready to take on the president and starting to hit the president. The convention is scheduled for late August -- basically, late August early September.

BAIER: Traditionally it has been a rehabilitation moment where an angry party could then take their nominee and say, look how great this person is, and isn't he the best person to run against the president?

DRUCKER: Right. And there's a reason -- because no news generally happens, per se, and so why not have it basically, near Labor Day so you can get your bump in the polls and pivot and head into the homestretch of the election with all guns blazing. If you end up with a candidate that is not picked until the convention they're gonna have no time to put together the kind of campaign they need to hit the president. And the president's basically gonna get a pass until September in terms of being actually attacked in a real fashion every day. And it's going to be horrible for Republicans that are interested in winning the White House.

HAYES: Let me -- can I disagree with that slightly. If there were -- if one of these other Republicans who have indicated that they don't want to run -- let's say a Jeb Bush, or a Paul Ryan, or a Mitch Daniels -- if one of those candidates were to sweep in at a convention and emerge from the convention as the nominee, and if you are one of the of the, ya know, depending on the poll 50, 65 percent of Republicans who are not happy with this field, I think you would get pushback from some Republicans and a lot of conservatives who would say, look, it would be a messy process, but if we end up with a better candidate than the ones that we've watched to this point --

(CROSSTALK)

BAIER: The voters who voted in all those states. They would be pretty --

LIASSON: That is really -- talk about democracy. That is really a slap in the face for every one of those people.

(CROSSTALK)

DRUCKER: I'm talking about putting together a campaign that can function. And actually -- and the president, if you want to soften him up, they should be starting in March.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: They're not going to start in March no matter what happens. And if you look at some of the exit polls, you're finding people who have cast ballots who say that they would --

(CROSSTALK)

BAIER: You snuck that in under the wire. Sorry Mara. Something tells me we'll talk about this again.

That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for a dramatic reading from the Senate floor.

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