A tippy-top Republican, unprompted, yesterday sketched the germ of a plan for a new candidate if Rick Santorum upsets Mitt Romney ...
Our friend handed us a printout of FEC deadlines for ballot access, with five of them circled and starred: California (March 23), Montana (March 12), New Jersey (April 2), New Mexico (March 16) and South Dakota (March 27). The point: Even after Feb. 28, it might be possible to assemble a Hail Mary candidacy that could garner enough delegates to force a CONTESTED convention (a different nuance than BROKERED, which implies that someone is in charge).
Note here that these skittish GOP leaders are already thinking ahead about how to "brand" a brokered convention and avert charges that the process is being hijacked by elites.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell quickly embraced the GOP establishment's preferred branding on Meet The Press today:
..if he loses Michigan, he then is at risk in Ohio. And he is then in terrible jeopardy and I think party leaders start getting together, not a brokered convention, because nobody's going to decide this, but you will go into Tampa at the convention without anyone having a majority conceivably and then you have a contested convention and on the second ballot, Katy bar the door.
More from Politico:
...ABC’S Jonathan Karl was at the Capitol, having a conversation that resulted in this Richter-rattler: “A prominent Republican senator just told me that if Romney can’t win in Michigan, the Republican Party needs to go back to the drawing board and convince somebody new to get into the race. ... Santorum? ‘He’d lose 35 states,’ the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich. It would have to be somebody else, the senator said. Who? ‘Jeb Bush.’”
This is a push from GOP establishment types to recruit someone "electable" from their camp. But almost surely in any broke scenario, conservative movement leaders will also try to recruit one of their own.