So there was suspense and drama to the proceedings. In 1960, John Kennedy got his majority for the Democratic nomination from Wyoming, the last state on the roll call. It was not until 1968 that the first media delegate count was conducted by Martin Plissner of CBS News.
The media delegate counts proved correct in the close 1976 Republican race between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan -- at which point the conventions started to take on their current form, as an advertisement for the presidential nominee and, perhaps secondarily, his party.
Sometimes things don't work out. Edward Kennedy avoided grasping Jimmy Carter's hand on the podium in New York in 1980, and Patrick Buchanan arguably overshadowed George H.W. Bush in Houston in 1992. But mostly things go according to script.
The Romney people have theirs prepared. Monday night is "we can do better," with the campaign trying to persuade one of the three broadcast networks to carry Ann Romney's speech. Tuesday is "we built that," with a Ron Paul video -- Hurricane Isaac permitting.
Wednesday is "the middle class agenda," with promises of more jobs and take-home pay. And Thursday, always the climactic night, is "we believe in America," with testimony about Romney's work in the Mormon Church and in the Salt Lake City Olympics and, of course, the nominee's acceptance speech.
The Romneyites are proud of their 3-D, high-resolution video screens (in the old days, delegates watched the tiny distant speakers), the podium inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright (a Wisconsin native, like Paul Ryan) and their efforts to interact with social media like Facebook and Twitter.
But of course it matters much more how the nominees, Ryan and especially Romney, come across. That's the whole point of still holding national conventions.
Some pundits lament the demise of the old conventions. But they couldn't be revived without banning long-distance telephone, the Internet and jet travel.
Contemporary conventions give parties a chance to showcase their nominees. As in much of our politics, an antique form still performs a useful function.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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