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All Odds Aside, GOP Girding for Floor Fight
The New York Times | March 18, 2012 | 07:04 AM EDT

For the first time in a generation, Republicans are preparing for the possibility that their presidential nomination could be decided at their national convention rather than on the campaign trail, a prospect that would upend one of the rituals of modern politics.

The race remains Mitt Romney’s to lose, and if he continues to accumulate delegates at a steady clip starting with contests in Puerto Rico on Sunday and Illinois on Tuesday, he can still amass the 1,144 necessary to secure the nomination before the last primary, in Utah on June 26.

But as he struggles to win the hearts of conservative voters and hold off a challenge from Rick Santorum, party leaders, activists and the campaigns are for the first time taking seriously the possibility that neither he nor anyone else will get to that total.

In that case, the nomination would be decided by the more than 2,200 delegates — from obscure local officials and activists to national figures — who will attend the party’s convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.

They would embark on an unscripted, contentious and televised drama that has not played out in 36 years, a period in which both major party conventions have become slickly produced and highly choreographed pep rallies kicking off the general election campaign.

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