Inside the Capitol

Friday, July 06, 2012

7-11 National conventions losing popularity

71112 RNC DNC

SANTA FE – U.S. Senate Candidate Heather Wilson announced a few weeks ago that she will not attend the Republican National Convention next month in Tampa, Fla. Wilson plans to concentrate on her tight race with U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich.
The announcement created no stir. It seemed to make sense. By going to the convention Wilson could have made connections with leading Republicans from throughout the state and maybe have pumped them up for a little extra help in their areas.
But national party conventions are losing some of their luster. For decades the candidate has been selected months ahead of time and a vice-presidential running mate already has been named. Sitting through an endless series of speeches gets dull, so Wilson chose not to waste her time.
For quite a while, many congressional candidates from both parties either have avoided their national conventions or only gone for a day or two. But this year, more Democrats than usual have announced their plans not to attend.
And Republicans have been quick to take note. They have called it a repudiation of the Democrats' presidential candidate and an admission that their campaigns back home are in trouble. And Democrats aren't just quietly deciding not to go, they are announcing it.
So should Wilson's announcement now be reevaluated? She is from a state dominated by the other political party. Most of the defections in other states share that same feature. But she's given no indication yet of running away from Mitt Romney.
A curious feature of Wilson's campaign has been the slew of ads from Karl Roves' super PAC, American Crossroads, promoting Wilson as being independent of her party. While that sometimes is true, Rove usually does not cotton to such independence.
Does this independent theme indicate that Republican leaders feel New Mexico has become so blue that only independent Republican candidates have a chance of winning a statewide race this year? Should Wilson's decision to skip her party convention be interpreted in the same light?
At least we know that Wilson's and Rove's thinking is not coordinated because super PAC's can't coordinate with campaigns they support. Except for Wilson's non-attendance at her party's convention, she has shown no evidence of planning to stray from the party line.
And if it is allowable for Wilson to be independent, how come Republican U.S. House candidate Janice Arnold-Jones is being ignored by the GOP? The word is that she is too independent.
Wilson's opponent, Rep. Heinrich, says he will be attending the Democratic National Convention. Democrats tend to skip their national conventions more often. Republicans traditionally have better party discipline.
Both parties generally provide automatic delegate seats to governors and members of Congress. An exception to that rule occurred in 1976 when a majority of the New Mexico delegation supported Ronald Reagan over President Gerald Ford.
Sen. Pete Domenici, a Ford supporter, was denied a delegate slot. GOP feelings ran high that year. Two of Sen. Domenici's good buddies from college days led the effort to exclude their fraternity brother. It was the last exciting GOP national convention.
Rep. Ron Paul now intends to attend the GOP convention. Early word was that he would hold a competing gathering down the street as he did four years ago. Paul's mind likely was changed by his success in electing supporters to delegate slots.
They must vote for Romney on the first ballot but they can vote for Paul's positions on other matters. And if they succeed in dominating five state delegations, they can put Paul's name in nomination for president. This could be another exciting convention although GOP leaders are expected to come up with some tricks of their own to control the situation.
The Tampa Convention Bureau says the GOP convention will be the second biggest media event of the year, except for the Olympics. They may have many reporters but not that many viewers. Networks keep trimming their convention coverage.


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