An End to National Party Conventions?


Michael Barone openly speculated that the days of four-day conventions may be over (Democrats cut theirs down to 3 and thanks to Hurricane Isaac, the GOP did as well). Now, the speculation is turning to a bigger question; are political conventions in general a thing of the past? Barone weighs in again:

I speculated in a blogpost that this would be the last four-day national convention (the Democrats having already cancelled their Monday Labor Day session). Others are speculating that we may not see national conventions again at all. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Right Turn blogger Jennifer Rubin, former New Hampshire Governor and Romney campaign spokesman John Sununu, said “This may be the last convention, in my opinion.” Rubin goes on: “Conventions, [Sununu] says, are from a bygone era when communication and travel were difficult. Now much of the business of conventions can be transacted by phone or email. Sununu speculates that the GOP Convention will cost $100 million. ‘I can do a lot of good with $100 million,’ he says.”

Similarly, House Speaker John Boehner, the chairman of this convention, was quoted in Roll Call as saying, “These are very expensive propositions to put on. I think that given as much news as people get today and the way they get their news, I’m not sure that having a four-day convention for the future makes a lot of sense.”

I am not so quick to pronounce national conventions dead, as I think their benefits extend beyond the three or four day parties, often in swing-state convention halls. The Obama campaign is intelligently using their North Carolina confab to sign up, train and mobilize thousands of North Carolina volunteers. We shouldn’t underestimate the dividends that effort will pay for their field operation in the state. In addition, the recent GOP Convention is likely to produce spin-off ads and stories glowingly talking about Romney’s record of private success. This also shouldn’t be underestimated.

Are the costs and logistical challenges worth it? Yes, the returns are diminishing, but I think we’re still over a decade away from the death of the national conventions. Hopefully that means I will get to cover one before they’re a thing of the past.