Parties and Platforms

Campaigns and Nominations

What happens at the national party convention?

The delegates elected in primaries, caucuses, or state conventions meet at their national party convention in the summer before the November election to choose the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates, ratify the party platform, elect officers, and adopt rules. Up until the mid-twentieth century, delegates arrived at national nominating conventions with differing levels of commitments to presidential candidates, and thus the convention was an event of excitement and fervor. However, today the nominee is usually known well in advance of the convention, based on the accumulation of a majority of delegate votes. As a result, the convention characteristically serves to ratify a choice already arrived at by party primaries, caucuses, and state conventions. Sometimes the nominee reveals his choice for running mate during the convention. In almost every national convention since 1956, one candidate has gone to each party’s convention with a clear, strong lead in delegate totals.


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