Whom should Republicans choose at a contested convention?

With Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE losing big to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE (Texas) in the Wisconsin and Colorado Republican primaries, the fog in the 2016 crystal ball is beginning to give way to the image of a contested convention where, after the first ballot, GOP delegates will toss the election results in the dumpster behind Quicken Loans Arena and choose the nominee themselves.


The delegates should choose the candidate with the most delegates or the most votes, but they won't. Instead, they'll venture into the dangerous territory of deciding the election for the voters. Choosing a party nominee at a contested convention is a lot like jump-starting a lawnmower battery with a car. Avoid doing it if you can, but when you have to do it, you damn well better get it right. If power-mad delegates make it a game of party-knows-best, they may end up blowing the GOP to bits. The voice of the voters — specifically the Trump plurality — should be a constant screech in the minds of the delegates, because they'll need these voters in the general election. If the party splits, likely Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies MORE becomes president, plain and simple. Right now, Clinton is The Road Runner and members of the GOP establishment are grinning at their own #NeverTrump cleverness with an Acme rocket strapped to their back.

The best way for the delegates to turn the party into a puff of smoke at the bottom of a canyon will be to choose an insider or a professional politician, particularly one who has gone to the mattresses with Trump. Give the Trump supporters a Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign Republicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE (Fla.), a former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), or — worst of all — a Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), and they'll be out the door before you can say "President Clinton."

The Trump plurality has sent a message to the GOP establishment, and that message goes something like this: We're tired of being governed by corporate donors and special interest groups; we're tired of career politicians, political correctness and Washington insiders who want to sell the American middle class down the river in their embrace of globalization. We're tired of the deficits, and we want a businessman who can balance the budget. Write them off as ill-informed dunderheads if you want, but after the last 16 years of American leadership, rejecting the political class seems reasonable to me.

In response, members of the establishment have sent their own message back at the Trump plurality, and that message is pretty much this: #NeverTrump. You can't blame them, either. Even the staunchest Trump supporters have to admit that his campaign style resembles a dumpster fire. It's immature and way beneath the presidency. On top of that, he's given no sign that the pettiness will ever end, and if he carries this campaign into the general election, he's going to get buried in November. The establishment wants a so-called "true conservative" who can beat Clinton in November.

There's only candidate out there who can bridge the gap and give everyone some of what they want: Carly Fiorina.

Now, it's true that Fiorina had to suspend her campaign after failing to make a big showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, but what does that matter? As it stands now, if the delegates choose anyone other than Trump, then it's a given that vote totals, delegate counts and overall support don't matter. According to Politico, top Republicans want Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (Wis.) to be nominated at the convention. Fiorina has more delegates to her name than he does and thousands more votes.

Here's how both sides would benefit from a Fiorina compromise.

For the Trump plurality: Fiorina is an outsider who hasn't spent her entire professional life in Washington, a businessperson with a zero-based budgeting plan that will make perpetual deficits a thing of the past. For all the talk that Trump can balance the budget and make a dent in the national debt, it's not something he talks about all that often. Fiorina, on the other hand, made shrinking the federal government one of the central points of her campaign.

For the establishment: No candidate this election cycle was more poised, knowledgeable or eloquent than Fiorina. In every debate she participated in, her competitors wound up drowning in her wake. She's presidential, she's a true conservative and she has the best chance of beating Clinton in November. Just imagine Clinton having to run an entire campaign without being able to accuse her opponent of being a sexist, anti-woman, manspreading, mansplaining Neanderthal. Doesn't it give you goosebumps? Fiorina is the only Republican who would force Clinton to campaign on issues instead of identity, and show up with ideas instead of ad hominem. And not one person in America would vote for Clinton just in hope of seeing the first female president during his or her lifetime.

Right now, Fiorina represents the best chance to keep the Trump supporters and the establishment from parting ways permanently. An outsider, but presidential. A businessperson, but a "true conservative." And most important, someone who can shut the door on Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina may seem like a farfetched choice, but if the number of votes and the number of delegates are out the window, nobody is farfetched.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.