The official nomination of each party's presidential candidate kicks off the formal campaign season. As VOA's Jeffrey Young explains, the conventions are staged to unite party members behind their White House nominees and build visibility for them among the U.S. electorate.
Political conventions are as carefully staged as Broadway shows. Every word, every movement has been precisely choreographed to present the party and its presidential nominee in the best possible light.
Every four years, huge arenas or convention centers are transformed for the greatest political shows in America. Millions of dollars are spent creating TV spectaculars, where all the attention revolves around that party's nominated candidate for president.
The Convention Process
There is a set process both Democrats and Republicans follow. The first order of business is seating each state's delegation.
Then, the party constructs and approves what it calls its platform. Heritage Foundation analyst Brian Darling explains, "The platforms will state for each party their position on abortion, their position on gun control, their position on the war in Iraq, their position on foreign policy issues, their position on economic issues and the housing crisis, [and] on gas [fuel] prices. Everything under the sun that these candidates will be running on will be part of this platform," he said.
The third step is to nominate candidates for president.
At the Democratic Convention in 2000, actor Tommy Lee Jones entered the person who won his place on that November's ballot, "With affection, with admiration, with faith in the future he will lead, I nominate my friend Al Gore as the next president of the United States," Jones said.
After presidential candidates are nominated, there is an alphabetical "roll call" vote of the states. At the 2000 Republican convention the call began with the state of Arizona.
"Arizona enthusiastically and unanimously presents to you our 30 delegates for [the] nomination of George Bush, the next president of the United States," said Cindy McCain, Arizona delegation chairman, 2000 Republican Convention.
During the primary elections and caucuses, candidates won delegates pledged to vote for them at the convention. The Republicans use a state-by-state "winner takes all" system. The Democrats use a proportional system. The state-by-state votes are tallied, and the candidate who gets the most is declared the party's presidential nominee.
On the final day of the convention, the newly nominated candidate gives an acceptance speech. In 2004, Democratic Senator John Kerry linked his acceptance to his Vietnam War naval service. "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty!" he said.
The acceptance speech is meant to energize the party and attract undecided voters.
"They say this is the best economy we have ever had," Kerry said. "And, they say anyone who things otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer. There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America cannot do better."
At the end of the speech, the nominee is joined by his vice-presidential running mate. From then until Election Day, the two candidates are politically one.
And no party nominating convention would be complete without a spectacular balloon and confetti drop to end the show.