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Unconventional Conventions

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As you are no doubt aware, Monday's schedule for the Republican National Convention in Tampa was cancelled due to fears of Tropical Storm Isaac becoming Hurricane Isaac, and Hurricane Isaac taking dead aim at Tampa.

Even if you hadn't heard this on the radio or on your local news, you knew it when you tuned in to watch convention activities and were greeted by the cable news channels' equivalent of "Rain Out Theater."

When I was growing up on Long Island, if the Yankees or Mets were rained out I could be pretty sure a Hopalong Cassidy movie would be playing in its place, which I thought was a pretty good trade.

Four years ago, the GOP cancelled its Monday session as another hurricane - Gustav - was bearing down on the Louisiana coast having crossed over Haiti and Cuba. The same general track as Isaac.

Decisions will be made regarding how to conduct the rest of the schedule. As of this writing the convention will have at least one afternoon session - today - then sessions Wednesday and Thursday nights culminating with the acceptance speech of Gov. Mitt Romney.

My un-asked-for advice was to move forward but tone down some of the hilarity that obtains during these events as the storm heads for New Orleans later in the week.

Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press quoted me as saying [how much to I like quoting myself? Thisssssssssss much!]

"You can tone down the happy-days-are-here-again a bit. Maybe you don't have the biggest balloon drop in history."

The Democrats' convention, which begins next Tuesday, was already cut to three days (a) as a sop to organized labor for not having a session on Labor Day and (b) because of its own funding rules (no corporate money) reduced the amount of money available for a fourth day.

That being the case it is now obvious that these conventions cannot survive in their current form which has remained essentially unchanged since the first one in 1831.

Conventions are important. The acceptance speeches of the major candidates draw the largest all-at-the-same-time audience of any event in the process not counting Inauguration Day.

The major over-the-air networks have committed only one hour of prime time coverage in each of the three days. Because of the Dems' schedule, the nets refused to add Monday to their coverage of the Romney convention, but that became moot over the weekend.

But, does process get its money's worth out of the hundreds of millions of dollars (much of them public funds) spent on these two conventions?


We're talking about using a 19th century event to make a case for our candidate in the 21st century.

I'm not talking about cutting these from four days to three; or from three days to two.

How about one three-hour event. Not just three hours of network TV time. I'm talking three hours total.

Think: Opening ceremonies at the Olympics; the Oscars; the Superbowl.

Delegates wouldn't actually have to vote. We can live very well never hearing again that The Great State of Upper Iguana, the Ball-of-String Capital of the World, casts its 13 votes for the next President of the United States …

State party chairs could, through an easily developed mechanism, log into a secure website and cast his states votes in whatever proportion the delegates have been allotted.

You could hire out a domed stadium for the night; put on a heck of a show. Singers, dancers, National Health Workers - ok maybe not them - but you get it.

Big time producers would vie for the contract. The VP candidate might be brought out at about halftime; the Presidential candidate closes the show. Empty the stadium in about 45 minutes - as every home team in the NFL and college Division I football does every weekend; and, its on with the campaign.

The two major parties could pick a date about a week apart, with the party in the White House going last, just as they do now. They can hold their platform and rules meetings in person or via computer meeting software. Demonstrators can be bussed in from their campuses that morning and be back in class by the next afternoon.

The Oscars, the Superbowl, the Olympic opening ceremonies and, now, the three-hour national nominating conventions. The run-up to a one-night event would be far more intense than 15,000 reporters walking around for a week mostly interviewing each other.

As we have discussed before, any sentence which includes the phrase "observers here say …" or some variant, means it is the result of two or more reporters having dinner with one another.

I don't know if that will be the answer, but I am very confident we are witnessing the end of a 181-year-old activity.

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