Harry Reid: Brokered convention 'not the end of the world'

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Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid listens during an interview Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said it was possible the crowded Democratic primary race was headed toward a contentious convention fight and downplayed the political dangers of a scenario many party leaders are dreading.

“I don’t think we’ll have one, but we could have one,” Reid told The Associated Press in an interview days before the Democratic caucuses in his home state of Nevada. “We’ve had brokered conventions before, and we’ve always come up with good candidates. It’s not the end of the world. It just slows the process down.”

Reid's attitude is a sharp contrast to many in the Democratic establishment who are anxious about the prospect of a long, contentious primary race in which several candidates divide up the vote and no one amasses more than 50% of the delegates ahead of the July convention. A brokered convention, in which party bosses or delegates in floor fights and negotiations decide the nominee, hasn’t happened since the invention of the modern primary system five decades ago. Many believe it would fracture the party and delay its shift to focusing on the common goal: defeating President Donald Trump.

Still, the 78-year-old Reid, who retired in early 2017 after a long career as a party power broker, offered no other path to arriving at the nomination. Reid suggested that the Democratic National Committee delegates should decide the nominee if the party’s leading candidate does not have a majority of delegates required to win.

“No, I think that we should make sure that the convention picks the nominee then,” Reid said.

But Reid, when pressed, then said he didn’t want to weigh in on whether that should happen until the Democratic National Committee weighed in.

“They’re the ones that should make decisions like that,” he said. “I want to hear what they have to say. That’s their function.”

During Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the only candidate who said he thought the candidate with the most delegates should win the party’s nomination, even if they don’t have a majority.