Martin Bashir   |  February 20, 2012

A brokered or just “broken” convention?

Ari Berman of The Nation and Christina Bellatoni of The News Hour debate whether the GOP race will finish before the Tampa convention.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> to show you some pictures of what's happening on the campaign trail. i have rick santorum in michigan. he's out there hitting the trail. newt gingrich in tulsa, oklahoma. both trying to show up some important points. we have newt gingrich doubling down in the south. we have to bring up the two words that is now been resurged or brought up again and that's a brokerage convention. possible?

>> i don't think. this makes for a great cable news story. it's not going to happen. i still think at the end of this long and winding road , mitt romney will be the nominee. what we're seeing is this brokered convention talk is how weak of a front-runner romney is. he's getting worse with time, not better. that's what has the republicans talking about this convention.

>> every day voters, a poll shows that close to seven in ten republicans do not want a brokered convention but as ari noted with the stumbling and having trouble, you can't help but discuss it.

>> it would be good for the news media. it's sort of the ultimate fantasy. if it seems familiar it's because we had these conversations about barack obama and hillary clinton leading up to the night that hillary clinton gave her delegates to barack obama . these are dramatic moments that we try to engineer. ari is exactly right, but it's also a matter of republicans don't do it this way. republicans tend to have a more orderly process. for all of the sort of excitement about this race and the multiple winners and multi. contests, you have had a fairly orderly process. you haven't had people asked people to leave the race. you haven't had much back stabbing.

>> this is orderly in.

>> yeah. you'll see this debate on wednesday night and they will take measured jabs and at the end of the day all four will say what that vi said before that that would vote for the other one for president. unless they say no way would i allow mitt romney to be the nominee then that's where you have a bit of fun. i will say that's where it's important to watch newt gingrich .

>> the two of you just aren't playing along. that's okay. rick santorum , the national polling, leading by 10% in some place, some of the polling in the midwest showing p that santorum is falling by the wayside but still expected to win there. what's your thought? his mention of theology in association with the president. some say he's questioning the president's christianity. he brought up prenatal testing and that illusion of the greatest generation . what's the thought here?

>> santorum clearly had an opening. the question is, is he really doing the best he could to seize the opening. some of his comments may appear to hard rights of the republican base. i think he's alienating a lot of potential voters including some moderate women here. he should be talking about the economy, manufacturing, the issues that play to his advantage.

>> doesn't he have it sured up.

>> he should. he's undercutting his own message.

>> christina, i want to get your thought on newt gingrich . a new infusion of sheldon adelson cash. this weekend he was saying if romney doesn't win in michigan, he should hang it up. he's also talking about himself.

>> yeah. ting georgia will be an interesting state to watch. it's a super tuesday state. it's newt gingrich 's home state. he hasn't been in georgia for a while. santorum folks think they have an opportunity there. i think it's also interesting to note that winning our future super pac, which you mentioned the sheldon adelson money is going toward the super pac. inferring that the candidates were train wrecks. i think you will hear that message more. that's where i go to the one slight chance this could ever be a brokered convention . i think that's unlikely. i think you have to watch who wins the next group of contests once delegates start collecting. you're going to have a much clearer idea of who the likely gop nominee is and it could be santorum .

>> it still would be possible. you're watching live pictures of newt gingrich in tulsa, oklahoma. ari, the crowd not looking necessarily too thick, but what if that were to happen. newt gingrich , rick santorum coming together. would that be the wallup to take down mitt.

>> not because it takes one candidate to bring down romney , not two or three or four. now it does seem like santorum could be the more authentic anti- romney . he's a much bitter fit. santorum has an opening here to be that person. the question is, does he have the money? does he have the organization? can he stay on message to become that person?

>> i think newt will continue to fade. the question is can santorum rise?

>> resources divide and so to you, christina, does this help or hurt the republican party as they move toward the general?

>> i think those questions are a little over blown. a lot of those were asked about the democrats in '08. people were paying attention for a long time. this does help president obama because he doesn't have to be out there spending much money on his campaign yet until the republicans settle on someone. in that sense that helps. any negative attention to these candidates, that helps them a little bit. really, republicans don't really like president obama . he gain some republicans in 2008 when he was elected. he's probably not going to have anywhere near that many going forward if he is able to win re-election. this is an area where it's still a fairly divided country. republicans will rally behind their nominee. third party candidacy, it's all possible. it's not likely to really dramatically that i think the race.

>> thank you so much. have a great afternoon.

>> thank you.