Last Updated: Tue Jan 10, 2012 15:51 pm (KSA) 12:51 pm (GMT)

How will Romney get over the top? And Bhopal, BP and CEO pay

Mitt Romney could run into trouble near November. (File photo)
Mitt Romney could run into trouble near November. (File photo)

This year the rules for the Republican nominating convention have been changed to tilt more toward awarding delegates proportionately rather than giving all the state’s delegates to whoever wins its primary, no matter how slim the margin. To be sure, some reports have overstated the change; the rules have never been completely winner-take-all across the country, and this year’s changes don’t affect every state. But the changes could be important in a year when national polls continue to point to front-runner Mitt Romney’s difficulty in attracting more than about 25 percent support.

Indeed, with it seeming clear that even in states like New Hampshire Romney can’t seem to attract majority support in a multi-candidate race, I keep looking for a story that will explain how Romney will capture the majority of delegates necessary to get the nomination.

Could one irony be that – despite the conventional wisdom that what is saving Romney is that opposition to him is split in a multi-candidate race – it is, in fact, the presence of multiple candidates that most threatens Romney’s ability to wrap up the nomination, because it allows voters to choose their favorite non-Romney from multiple flavors?

It seems possible that Ron Paul will keep enjoying 10-20 percent support, while the Santorum/Gingrich/Perry conservative faction could keep commanding 30-40 percent support, especially if more than one of them stays in the race (and on the television debate stage) through the spring, assuming they don’t run out of money altogether or can live on shoe-string budgets when the money gets low.

Is there enough new math at play here that this could produce a brokered convention, with the delegates turning to a Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush to break the deadlock? Or would Romney have to choose one of the right-wing candidates as a running mate (thereby weakening his November appeal to independents and moderates) to put himself over the top? And doesn’t this changed dynamic actually encourage likely also-rans such as Perry, Gingrich or Santorum to stay in the race, spending little money but not formally withdrawing and releasing their delegates, so they can be power-brokers or even the vice-presidential nominee?

If not, why not? Could the fact that Perry’s Texas delegation represents more than 10 percent of the votes needed to get the nomination produce a re-run of the 1960 Democratic convention, when the Massachusetts nominee had to pick a bitter rival from Texas?

2. Comparing two manmade disasters – 26 years and continents apart:
As we approach the second anniversary of the April, 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve just passed the 27th anniversary of a much bigger manmade environmental disaster: the December 1984 gas explosion at a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, that is believed to have killed more than 25,000 people and injured more than a half-million. As with the BP spill, there were all kinds of allegations that safety regulations had been evaded, and plaintiffs’ lawyers from the U.S. arrived quickly to chase down prospective client-victims. (Yes, they got to Bhopal as fast they got to the Gulf.)

I’d love to see a story comparing how BP and Union Carbide were held accountable, as well as how the victims, both of the immediate tragedy and of each disaster’s lingering effects, were compensated.

3. Shining a spotlight on the pay gap:
I read a story in the Financial Times last week pointing out that among the financial reforms being considered in Britain is a rule requiring public companies to disclose the ratio of the CEO’s pay to that of the lowest-salaried employee.

Although I think they should also throw in the ratio of the highest pay to the mean (or most typical) salary for a fuller picture, I’ve always thought this was a good free-market way of focusing on the gap between the haves and have-nots and getting corporate executives and their boards at least to discuss and justify executive pay. And it certainly falls within the ambit of information the SEC could appropriately ask corporations to disclose to their shareholders. So what’s the SEC’s view? What about the Chamber of Commerce, the Conference Board and other business groups?

Oh, and while we wait for the regulators to force this information out, why can’t Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times assign reporters to do a chart that shows the ratios for, say, the Fortune 100? The top executives’ pay is already publicly disclosed. And with some simple shoe leather, it shouldn’t be hard to find the numbers for the lowest-salaried employees.

Can’t wait to hear the CEO and the chair of the board of directors compensation committee at each of the 10 companies with the highest ratios explain it.

(Steven Brill, the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harpers, and The New York Times Magazine.)

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