John McCaslin
Recommend this article

Please note that if you plan to attend the historic Washington and Lee University Mock Convention this weekend, the dress code is "Lee Chapel Attire" — meaning coat and tie (go for tweed, guys) and equivalent for the ladies.

After all, the student delegates will likely be introducing the next Democratic nominee for president.

The quadrennial tradition, in which students predict the ultimate candidate of the political party not currently in the White House — a Democrat, obviously — has earned the reputation of being the country's most accurate and realistic mock convention since its inception 100 years ago.

Bottom line: 18 correct predictions in 23 attempts, but only one bad call since 1948.

It all started in 1908, when William Jennings Bryan, a presidential front-runner, visited the Lexington, Va., campus and according to the university "aroused such an interest that the students decided to hold a replica of the upcoming Democratic convention."

The Lexington Gazette reported in 1908 that the young gentlemen entered the meeting with the "zest of seasoned politicians plus the enthusiasm of collegians" — to the extent that tempers flared and several fights broke out on the convention floor.

When the dust settled, the students had made their first correct prediction: Bryan was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver (he went on to lose to William Howard Taft, his third defeat for the presidency).

As for the one "misstep" in the past 60 years, that was in 1972 when the delegates picked Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy over South Dakota Sen. George McGovern. Other predictions have been on the money: John F. Kennedy in 1960, Barry Goldwater in 1964, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, and George W. Bush in 2000.

The 2008 mock conventioneers will hear in person from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

Not born yesterday

Speaking of Geraldine Ferraro, Washington political researcher John Lockwood can't help but hear New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama constantly defend their "lack of experience."

For the record, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have been U.S. senators for seven years and two years respectively.

Recommend this article

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.