An open Republican convention would not only leave the party’s presidential nomination hanging in the balance until July: The question of a running mate for the nominee, a vitally important component of any campaign, could also remain unanswered until the GOP meets in Cleveland, or perhaps even later.
This variable could create an added element of chaos to an already turbulent convention, possibly forcing a last-minute scramble to name a vice presidential candidate for the freshly minted nominee, or setting up a battle on the convention floor among multiple wannabe running mates.
Either way, there would be no precedent in the modern political era for what might transpire, and no playbook for the Republican Party to follow.
“Since the advent of pre-named tickets heading into the convention, we haven’t had a situation like this,” said Ryan Williams, a GOP strategist and former aide to Mitt Romney. “It’s absolutely uncharted territory.”
The onus to chart a path would fall first on the candidates themselves, who could opt to break with tradition and name their choices without the nomination locked up. This would not be unprecedented, and not without risk, however: They could lose leverage to strike a deal at the convention, appear presumptuous, or alienate delegates with their pick.