Black smoke emerging from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel this morning indicated that the 115 cardinal-electors of the Roman Catholic Church failed to elect a new pope.
Voting will continue today with two more possible votes this afternoon after the cardinals break for lunch. The cardinals must reach a two-thirds majority of 77 votes to elect the next pontiff.
"I think now you have the real politicking, because now they've had their ballots so they know who's not getting votes," author and journalist Cokie Roberts told "Good Morning America."
"They know they can't hold out for somebody that they thought was just really the perfect pope. So, now, they're starting to say, 'If my guy's not going to get it, let me think about the other guy.' And somebody is probably working hard on them to make them think about another guy."
Roberts points out that the cardinals are not permitted to make deals with each other in order to come to a decision.
"They're not supposed to say, 'If you elect my guy pope, he will promise to name this guy as secretary of state. No promises can be made," she said, comparing the process to U.S. politics. "What you're seeing here is a winnowing of the field."
The cardinals started the conclave Tuesday afternoon, but black smoke emerged from the chapel's chimney a few hours later, signaling that no candidate had received the two-thirds majority. With such a wide-open conclave, the failure to pick the next pontiff quickly does not come as a surprise.
"As the votes go on, a certain clarity usually arrives," the Rev. John Wauck, a U.S. priest living in Rome, told ABC News. "No one said electing a pope was going to be easy."
But a key cardinal from the United States voiced optimism that a decision would be made soon. Before the conclave began, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a letter to his priests in New York that he believed a successor to the retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would be picked by Thursday evening.
Dolan himself is viewed as a potential candidate to become the next pope, as is fellow U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston. But there has never been a U.S. pope or any pope from outside Europe. Other candidates viewed as potential front-runners are cardinals Angelo Scola of Italy, Marc Ouellet of Canada, Peter Erdo of Hungary and Odilo Scherer of Brazil.
"I imagine there is a growing clarity about what the options will be in the next few days," Wauck said.
After breaking for the night Tuesday, the cardinals returned to their residence at Santa Marta for a simple dinner of pasta with tomato sauce, soups and cheeses, according to Italian news agency ANSA. The plain, basic fare -- no match for the fine food served across Rome -- might make the cardinals more eager to wrap up their deliberations.