It’s that time again! It’s the show that happens once every four years when American presidential campaigns decide that speeches and debates aren’t enough, and it’s upon us. This time around, we get to see the major parties’ national conventions side-by-side as the Democrats put on their show in Denver, Colorado this Monday through Thursday, and the Republicans throw their party the following week in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Canadians are not new to political conventions, but we’re used to not knowing the result of the leadership or policy changes that take place at our events, nor when the next federal election will even take place. In 2006, the Liberals had their convention in Montreal where the candidate who entered with the most delegates, Michael Ignatieff, lost out to the candidate who entered with the fourth most, current leader Stephane Dion. Ask Google if you want to know how that happened.
For the two major American parties, the conventions have for a long time been nothing but perfectly orchestrated celebrations of their nominees who have usually already been running as so for months. In the ultra-competitive political environment, the façade of a unified party backing their “how could we have even considered anyone else?” presidential hopeful is campaign 101.
Expect four days of perfectly written and executed speeches from some of the biggest figures in American politics. You’d imagine the Republicans might snub their biggest celebrity, the one called “W.”, but he’s scheduled for day one.
On one of the nights each convention will have a roll call, where the delegates from each state will give their official votes for a nominee. This is generally a formality these days, although the Democratic party has announced that Hillary Clinton will still be nominated prior to roll call alongside Obama, so that her 1800+ delegates (Obama has over 2200) can still go through the motions of voting for her.
The past of each party isn’t the only thing to expect, as only four years ago, one of the Democrat’s headliners was a young state senator from Illinois who became famous for saying “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s a United States of America!”
This year’s Republican schedule includes Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, most of John McCain’s primary election rivals, and his still-to-be determined vice presidential pick. For the Democrats this week, we’ll see Michelle Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Obama’s about-to-be announced vice presidential running mate.
Naturally, the last speech on the last night of each convention will be the nominees. In an attempt to make history, the Democrats have moved their last night of convention down the street to Invesco Field, where Obama will give his speech in front of over 70,000 people on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
The presidential campaigns will be officially kicked off, and typically each candidate will experience a bump in the polls following their convention. The Republicans have no doubt scheduled their convention immediately after the Democrats to quell this bump. To go a step further, John McCain has said he will announce his vice presidential pick the day after Obama’s speech in an effort to divert news coverage.
For McCain, speculation has hovered around his main rival in the primaries last winter, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney is a powerful figure who could help court the social conservatives McCain has had trouble with, as well as win his home state of Michigan. Senator Joe Lieberman, a centrist Independent and former Democrat, has also been rumored as a possible running mate.
For Obama, I’d put money on him having already picked Senator Joe Biden by the time you’re reading this. Of the rumored possible picks, Biden is the most well known and qualified, and in these final days, inside chatter has been pointing to him and away from fellow finalists Senator Evan Bayh and Governor Tim Kaine. Biden gives Obama’s campaign foreign policy credentials it desperately needs after Russia’s recent actions in Georgia, and he gives Obama the “strong voice” he is looking for in his administration. On the downside, Biden voted for the war authorization in Iraq.
Of course, there’s always those who will still point to Hillary Clinton, who could easily assure Obama millions of more votes than he might otherwise lose to McCain, not to mention make 46% of the convention delegation erupt in elation. But the general feeling remains that she and her charismatic husband would steal the show not only in the campaign but also possibly in any future administration. Obama could still lose with Hillary by his side if his message is muddied, and he is seen as desperate for picking her.
But I guess this is all moot if he’s already picked….Biden?
I guess we’ll have to watch and see. (Originally written Friday, August 22nd)
Alex Leduc is a freelance columnist and blogger, as well as a journalism student at Concordia University. All his political columns are available at www.alexleduc.com