Nominations & Conventions

Current Practices

Convention Schedules
related video
Michael Berman on selecting a convention city,
Jack Corrigan on the role of television in campaigning.

Once parties choose a site, they establish three major convention committees: credentials, rules, and platform (party position on major issues). Then, the party appoints conventions officers.  These basic components of national party conventions have remained relatively stable since the 19th century.

In recent years, party leaders have streamlined convention schedules due to the decreasing interest of major television networks and the public at large.  In 2012, the conventions will only last three days each, a trend that may continue in the future.  However, even as the number of television viewers decline, conventions still remain “made for television” events. Convention schedulers keep prime time television audiences in mind as they present the party’s (and candidate’s) strengths to the public.  Members of both parties are especially mindful of 1972, when Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern gave his acceptance speech after 2:30 a.m.

Despite the criticism, modern national nominating conventions allow parties to showcase their candidates, rising stars, leaders, and policies in front of a national audience. In order to ensure that all speakers stay on message and do not speak longer than scheduled, convention leaders manage events down to the minute. However, speakers do not always follow the script. Conventions ratify the results of the primaries and caucuses and introduce vice presidential nominees. Once both major party nominees have delivered their acceptance speeches, the general election campaign officially begins.