Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at The Cable Center in Denver, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
It's been more than 50 years since either political party had a brokered presidential convention. And even though the Republican establishment downplays the messy idea, it may well come to pass.
Mitt Romney, viewed for most of the past few months as the front runner, is now running for his life in an attempt to finally nail down the nomination.
And even though the list of candidates has been whittled down from 10 to four, remaining challengers Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul aren't about to go away.
The Romney folks claim they'll end the suspense on Super Tuesday, which is March 6.
Yet Super Tuesday isn't so super this year, with only 10 states in the mix compared to 31 that sealed the deal for John McCain in 2008. Also, many more Republican primaries this year are proportional, which makes it easier for everyone to remain in the hunt.
Curiously, the California presidential primary on June 5 is beginning to look important, as improbable as the idea seemed earlier in the race.
Moreover, the conservative make-up of the state's Republican Party members makes California an ideal target for any candidate seeking evangelical support.
Which begs the question, which of the candidates will be best positioned to score well with this group?
Don't rule out Rick Santorum. This conclusion is reached by a process of elimination.
California's conservatives fall into two camps -- fiscal and religious. Paul will capture the fiscal, libertarian types, but their numbers aren't that large and not likely to be motivated in a primary with no tax issues on the ballot.
What about Gingrich with the evangelicals? He's not likely to do so well because of the well-publicized Clinton impeachment fight (remember, California is a blue state) and the negative sentiment associated with Gingrich's own affair as he was leading the effort to remove Clinton.
Then there's Romney. He'll do well with the Mormon vote, a group that should not be dismissed, given the Church's activism in the Proposition 8 vote in 2008. But most of that money came from out of state.
And numerically speaking, the Mormon vote in California is much more diluted compared to states like Arizona and Nevada.
That leaves Santorum. Whatever you think of his values, he comes across as a straight shooter, an authentic individual in a world of what angry voters view as phony politicians. As a straight shooter, Santorum will also present himself as an authentic evangelical -- not someone who saw the light a few years ago, not someone in a religion that many evangelicals view as semi-Christian at best.
Of course, none of this occurs unless the race is as fractured in May as it is now. But if it is, watch for a Santorum surge in the fight for California's 172 delegates, nearly 10 percent of the total.
But wait, you say. What about that huge pot of money enjoyed by Mitt Romney and his Super PACs? Maybe before he starts spending, he should chat with Meg Whitman.