Swing State Pres

Monday, July 4, 2016

What If They Held a Convention and Nobody Came?

The conventional wisdom (pun intended) is that conventions don’t really matter anymore.  Gone – long gone – are the days when conventions would actually decide the nominees, not merely rubber stamp them.  When dozens of ballots and smoked-filled rooms were the norm, and primaries were a curiosity rather than a determinant.  (It may interest you to know that in 1952 Estes Kefauver won 12 of 15 primaries; he lost to Adlai Stevenson on the third ballot at the convention.  Stevenson had not entered any primaries.)

So, conventions no longer have any reason for being.  Right?  Actually, wrong – very wrong.  Conventions may not have much drama these days, but they do have an impact and a significant one.  Most modern conventions are very tightly choreographed affairs, and when they go well, they do a great service to their candidates, presenting them in their most favorable light – the red, white and blue draped, emotionally-charged, ultra-humanizing biographical video of the nominee, the stirring endorsement speeches by party heroes, the mutually validating address by the anointed, rising-star keynote speaker, the passionate pitch of an adoring and often charismatic spouse, and the culminating address of the nominee.  All of this has great power.  Who could forget the stunning lineup at the 2008 convention, when Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Barack Obama played a rousing game of oratorial “can you top this?” in anointing Obama?

Conventions matter because they affect the polls.  Nate Silver did the definitive analysis and calculated the convention “bounce” to be, in the post-convention two week period, on average +5 points for the challenger and +3 for the incumbent.  He points out that even Walter Mondale managed to catch up and tie with Ronald Reagan in 1984 after his convention.  So, if you blow your convention, you are liable to lose critical ground.

Mitt Romney, you may recall, had a few major problems in controlling his convention in 2012.  Chris Christie, Romney’s “rising star” keynote speaker, barely mentioned Romney in a self-laudatory address.  But more memorable was the now infamous Clint Eastwood debacle.  Eastwood, the penultimate speaker before Romney, made headlines for his “interview” with an empty chair, standing in for Obama, as the Romneys grimaced and seethed.

It hurt.  Romney’s bounce was only +2 points, while Obama’s was a full +8 points.  Conventions certainly do matter.

Which brings me to now.  In keeping with a campaign that has been like no other, who knows what we will see at Donald Trump’s convention?  Convention-mania reached new highs about a month ago, when pundits were contemplating a challenge at both conventions to the candidacies of Hillary Clinton (by Bernie Sanders) and Donald Trump (by “anyone but Trump”).  Those seem to have died down, although the possibility of disruption remains, by the faithful who oppose the two presumptive nominees.

Trump certainly needs a bounce.  Clinton has led Trump in 17 out of 18 polls since June 15, on average by +5.3 points.  Can Trump get that bounce?

A better question might be...who is actually going to attend the Republican Convention in Cleveland, which begins in two weeks on Monday, July 18?  Who will give those ringing validations of the nominee that appear to mean so much?

In our ongoing attempt to quantify anything that moves in politics, we at BTRTN have put together a list (subjective, of course), of the Top 50 members of the GOP, the “A” listers who, in a normal year, would be presumed to be attending the convention, with many speaking.  A list that, say, John Kasich would have expected had he, not Donald Trump, been the GOP nominee.

We have tried, from public sources, to determine who among those 50 are planning to attend.  We welcome comments and input, both on who we might be missing, and if there is new information (or we have it wrong) on their intentions.  The chart is below, with a column to note which ones spoke at Mitt Romney’s coronation in 2012.



Spoke at    2012 GOP Convention
2016 GOP Convention Plans
George W. Bush
Former President

No
George H.W. Bush
Former President

No
Mitt Romney
Former Presidential Nominee
x
No
John McCain
Former Presidential Nominee
x
No
Bob Dole
Former Presidential Nominee

Yes
Paul Ryan
Speaker; Former VP Nominee
x
Yes: Co- Chair
Sarah Palin
Former VP Nominee


Dick Cheney
Former Vice-President


Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader
x
Yes
Kevin McCarthy
House Majority Leader


Ted Cruz
Former Pres. Candidate, Sen. Texas
x
Not sure
John Kasich
Former Pres. Candidate, Gov Ohio

Yes (Host)
Chris Christie
Former Pres. Candidate, Gov NJ
x
Yes
Ben Carson
Former Presidential Candidate


Rick Santorum
Former Presidential Candidate
x

Mike Huckabee
Former Presidential Candidate
x
Likely
Jeb Bush
Former Presidential Candidate
x
No
Carly Fiorina
Former Presidential Candidate


Rand Paul
Former Pres. Candidate, Sen KY
x
Not sure
Lindsey Graham
Former Pres. Candidate, Sen SC

No
Marco Rubio
Former Pres. Candidate, Sen Fla.
x
Yes
Rick Perry
Former Presidential Candidate


Scott Walker
Former Pres. Candidate, Gov. Wis.
x

Bobby Jindal
Former Pres. Candidate, Gov. LA
x

Reince Preibus
GOP Chairman
x
Yes
John Boehner
Former Speaker

Yes
Newt Gingrich
Former Speaker; Pres. Cand.

Yes
Nikki Haley
Governor South Carolina
x
Not sure
Susana Martinez
Governor New Mexico
x
Yes
Mike Pence
Governor Indiana


Brian Sandoval
Governor Nevada
x
No
Orrin Hatch
Senator Utah

Yes
Susan Collins
Senator Maine


Jeff Sessions
Senator Alabama


Bob Corker
Senator Tennessee


Kelly Ayotte
Senator New Hampshire
x
No
Rob Portman
Senator Ohio
x
Yes (Host)
John Cornyn
Senator Texas, Whip

Yes
John Thune
Senator South Dakota
x

Charles Grassley
Senator Iowa

"For one day"
Lamar Alexander
Senator Tennessee


Jeff Flake
Senator Arizona

No
Lisa Murkowski
Senator Alaska

No
Steve Scalise
Rep. Louisiana, Majority Whip


Jason Chaffetz
Rep. Utah
x

Trey Gowdy
Rep. South Carolina

No
Tom Cole
Rep. Oklahoma


Darrell Issa
Rep. California


Peter King
Rep. New York


Mia Love
Rep. Utah
x
No

The results, while hardly complete, are staggering.  We have been able to find public statements of intent from 24 of the 50.  At this point only 12 of the 24 have committed to attending the Cleveland convention, while another 12 have declared themselves out.  The “nays”  include the four luminaries who have topped the GOP ticket for 6 out of the last 7 elections, every one for the last 24 years save 1996:  George H.W.Bush (’88 and ’92), George H.W. Bush (’00 and ’04), John McCain (’08) and Mitt Romney (’12).  Only Bob Dole (’96) will attend among living former GOP presidential nominees.

Some of the 12 who are attending don’t have much choice and not many of them sound terribly enthusiastic, to say the least.  Governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman, both of Ohio are, in effect, hosts of the convention.  Portman thinks so highly of these duties that, while he will show up, he is planning a “parallel convention” on the outskirts of the convention site – a venture that has apparently been in the works since long before Trump came on the scene – smart move.  Kasich has not agreed to speak yet at the convention.  Paul Ryan is the Co-Chairman of the convention, so he has to be there, but he says his role is largely administrative, and he said, with respect to potential challenges to the Trump coronation, “I’m not going to tell the delegates how to do their jobs.”  Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he is going, but characterizes his plans as “fast in, fast out,” perhaps for a day.

And the Senators who are in tough re-election battles this year are staying away in droves, including Linda Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Jerry Moran of Kansas, as well as McCain.

This is truly uncharted territory.  Who exactly will give those rousing speeches that ensure that Trump gets his bounce?  You can rest assured Hillary Clinton will put on a great show in Philadelphia the week after.  Just think of the lineup – Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all will precede the nominee to the podium. It will be quite a show.

But for the Donald?  Not so much.  Intrigue?  Yes.  Curiosity?  For sure.  But a certain +3 to +5?  Definitely not a given. 











1 comment:

  1. Donald won't need the laudatory speeches of others - he will provide all of the self- congratulations that the public can stomach.

    ReplyDelete

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