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Jewish World Review
July 10, 2012/ 20 Tammuz, 5772
Candidates play hooky from party conventions
The major parties' political conventions have been a quadrennial rite of American politics since the 1830s. In smoke-filled rooms, the delegates hammered out party platforms, cut deals and, on the convention floor, sometimes after dozens of ballots, they chose presidential nominees.
It now seems all so quaint.
Republican and Democratic image-makers, pubic-relations consultants and convention directors often hired from Hollywood to produce these spectacles have worked assiduously and successfully to drain the excitement from them, and indeed to eliminate any unscripted moments.
The delegates, who work hard to get there, find they are in fact extras in a made-for-TV special, to cheer when called up to cheer, to wave on cue the "handmade" signs they were handed as they entered the hall.
The networks have cut back to a few hours a night. The cable networks seem less and less interested in gavel-to-gavel coverage. And now the parties' down-ballot candidates are beginning to stay away.
The fact is, there is very little for the candidates or the delegates to do. The Democrats have known since Inauguration Day 2009 that their candidate would be Barack Obama. (For the record, he clinched the 2012 nomination by April 3.) This time, his choice of vice president is no surprise; he'll stick with Joe Biden when the Democrats gather beginning Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.
Mitt Romney effectively won the GOP nomination at the end of May. That's a lot of time before the Republicans get together beginning Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.
As a result, said The Washington Post, "for dozens of congressional candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, the smart political calculation is to stay away."
Not only do the conventions chew up the campaigns' time and money but they also make the candidates virtually disappear, by virtue of the scant attention paid them by local newspapers and TV stations, who no longer cover them the way they did.
Among the big names who will be missing: Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; former GOP Gov. George Allen, now seeking the Virginia Senate seat; and none of the U.S. Senate candidates from Hawaii.
The staff of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he'd go but only for a prime-time speaking slot. Such a spot, as opposed to serving as background noise for bored delegates in the afternoon, is still an honor worth having. It worked for an unknown U.S. senator from Illinois named Obama in 2004.
In seeking to turn the conventions into days of commercials for the two parties, the producers have reduced the need for voters to watch and now, apparently, for the candidates to attend.
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