Elections

Other Democratic and Republican conventions worth recalling

Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson for the presidency in 1912 even though he had never held office, and he won. On March 4, 1913, he took the oath of office from Chief Justice Edward D. White.
Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson for the presidency in 1912 even though he had never held office, and he won. On March 4, 1913, he took the oath of office from Chief Justice Edward D. White. ASSOCIATED PRESS

There have been other notable political conventions since 1900:

1912, Democrats, Baltimore: House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri was an early front-runner, but he faded after William Jennings Bryan threw his support to Woodrow Wilson, who had never held office before. Wilson defeated the badly split GOP, becoming the last president to assume office without prior political or military experience.

1924, Republicans, Chicago: It was the first national convention broadcast on radio. Listeners heard a battle for vice president and the nomination of President Calvin Coolidge. The broadcast marked the beginning of the political convention as theater, a trend that would accelerate in the late 20th century.

1928, Republicans, Kansas City: The GOP nominated Herbert Hoover on the first ballot. The Great Depression began about a year later, when Hoover was president.

1940, Republicans, Philadelphia: Delegates considered senators, a district attorney, a governor, a House member, even a newspaper publisher for the nomination. They settled in the end for Wendell Willkie, who had never run for anything. Willkie fell short. That fall the nation elected Franklin Roosevelt for an unprecedented third time.

1948, Democrats, Philadelphia: Democrats could no longer ignore the growing tension over civil rights legislation. Some members of delegations from Alabama and Mississippi walked out, later forming what was called the Dixiecrat party. They nominated Strom Thurmond for president, but Harry Truman prevailed in the fall anyway.

1948, Republicans, Philadelphia: Delegates nominated Thomas Dewey, convinced they would finally win the White House after 16 years in the wilderness. They were wrong.

1960, Democrats, Los Angeles: The problems with naming a vice president reared up again. The Kennedys offered the job to Sen. Lyndon Johnson, assuming he would turn it down. To their anger and chagrin, he accepted. The hatred between Johnson and Robert Kennedy, JFK’s chief adviser and confidant, continued until Robert Kennedy’s death in 1968.

But the choice changed history. When Kennedy was murdered in 1963, Johnson became president — giving American civil rights legislation, the Great Society and a continuation of the Vietnam War.

1964, Republicans, San Francisco: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Sen. Barry Goldwater, the nominee, told the convention. “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” He lost in a landslide to Johnson, but the seeds of the Ronald Reagan revolution were in the soil.

1972, Democrats, Miami Beach, Fla.: The stench of 1968 still hung over the Democrats, who gathered to nominate Sen. George McGovern. Delegates spent hours selecting a vice president, pushing McGovern’s speech into the early morning and helping doom his chances for the White House.

He might have lost anyway. Richard Nixon was overwhelmingly popular with voters, particularly those tired of the upheaval of the 1960s.

1980, Democrats, New York: Sen. Ted Kennedy’s challenge to incumbent Jimmy Carter fell short when delegates rejected a rules change that would unbind them from primary results. Kennedy responded by delivering an emotional speech, referring to his dead brothers and summoning Democrats to their liberal roots. The resulting demonstration electrified the delegates and crushed Carter’s victory lap.

Carter lost to Reagan that fall.

1984, Democrats, San Francisco: The gathering was memorable largely because nominee Walter Mondale picked Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. It was the first time a woman was a part of a major party’s presidential ticket.

Ferraro proved controversial: Her husband’s business dealings became an issue in the fall. But an important barrier had been broken.

1988, Republicans, New Orleans: George H.W. Bush, Reagan’s vice president, won a grueling primary season and arrived in New Orleans ready to pick Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate. Quayle was immediately controversial — the senator’s draft status was an issue, and his grasp of the issues seemed lackluster.

Quayle became a central issue in the fall campaign. The ticket prevailed anyway.

1992, Democrats, New York: Bill Clinton and Al Gore bounced back from a springtime dip by using the convention to highlight their youth and energy. It worked.

1996, Republicans, San Diego: Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas was the nominee. In a sign of things to come, Dole was still working on his acceptance speech the day it was delivered — and the campaign was marked by disorganization and the lack of a central theme.

Much of that may have been Dole’s fault. Accustomed to compromise and negotiation in the Senate, the Kansas Republican seemed more uncomfortable seeking an executive role.

2000, Democrats, Los Angeles: Gore locked lips with Tipper, his wife, before accepting the nomination. The kiss was meant to humanize Gore, who some saw as too wooden.

But the smooch quickly became the focus of the post-speech coverage, making it harder for the address to have an impact with voters.

2008, Republicans, St. Paul, Minn.: Sen. John McCain picked Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, a decision that still puzzles some political pros. While Palin stunned the convention audience with a roaring speech — and performed well in her debate with Joe Biden — the political neophyte later struggled in interviews and speeches.

Also, the start of the convention was delayed because of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

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