The Importance of Convention Scheduling

by on May 23rd, 2004

In the 2000 Election Florida Fiasco a Democratic Party hack designed a butterfly ballot for the voters of Palm Beach County. Unfortunately (for the Democrats) the ballot design proved confusing for Gore voters who inadvertently cast their vote for Pat Buchanan. The Democrats did not like the way their ballot design decision turned out. So they tried everything they could to try to change the results into something they liked. Little details like fairness and election law mattered not.

Fast forward to the 2004 election and again we see the Democrats unhappy with the results of their decision making. It seems that based on their expectation that by the time the convention rolled around their candidate would be gasping for funds they decided to hold their convention early and cash that $75 million federal campaign check. It seems they were wrong. Not only is their candidate swimming in cash – so is their opponent who’s convention is five weeks later. What are the Democrats to do?

Do they stand up and say, “Well we kind of screwed the pooch on the whole convention scheduling thing but we believe in our candidate and his ideas so we will go ahead as planned? Or do they spout some drivel about a level playing field (completely ignoring the fact that they created the field they are on) and try to pull a fast one?

Straight up and honest or slippery and sleazy?

Well they are politicians, and Democratic politicians at that. They are taking a long hard look at slippery and sleazy.

The current plan under consideration is for the party to hold its convention and nominate Kerry as planned. The twist is that Kerry would not accept the nomination. At least not right away. The idea is that if Kerry does not accept the nomination right away, he is free to continue spending the sizable amount of money he has raised as opposed to being limited to his federal campaign financing.

The nuance would go something like “I actually campaigned for the nomination before I decided not to accept it. Then I accepted it.”

The less nuanced version would go something like “They made their bed and they refuse to lay in it.”

Did the Republican Party schedule their convention so as to take the fullest possible advantage of the campaign finance system? Absolutely. So did the Democrats. The difference is, the Democrats got it wrong. That both sides feel that so much is riding on who best can play the system speaks volumes about not only the system, but the parties as well.

Stephen Macklin