Quesiton about Roll Call at the 2004 US Republican National Convention
August 30, 2004 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm watching live coverage of the RNC. Someone from each state is giving a little speech, and then either casting some number of votes for President George W. Bush, or "passing". What is the point of this, and what is the difference between the two choices?
posted by reklaw to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
It's when, if there were more than one candidate, they'd be voting between them in a contest long-ago decided. But there's just one, so you can vote for Bush or abstain.

There's no point to it other than looking purty for the cameras.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2004

It's the Rolling Roll Call of the States. Around DNC-time Jay Rosen wrote a very long and worthwhile article on the history of the [US] convention process. Back in the day, the conventions were actually about choosing who was going to be the candidate the party would run for office. Now that decision is made ahead of time and the convention is more for rallying the troops and getting on message. The little speeches are usually sort of little ads for the states and paeans to the person they are voting for. Want to know more about this whole process? Here's some background, some facts on this year or Slate's wry take from 2000 which also explains the weird "passing" thing. Here's the pullquote from the Slate article, it's too good to leave out.
5. The "rolling" roll call. Roll calls were interesting when there was suspense about which candidate would be nominated and how many delegates he'd get. Thanks to the modern primary system, that suspense has been absent for the last several conventions. Now we have an additional absurdity: The losing candidate—this year, John McCain—releases his delegates to the winning candidate before the roll call. So what's the point of counting? To manufacture suspense about which state will put the winner "over the top." The party manufactures this suspense by choreographing an elaborate alphabetical sequence in which the big delegations "pass." The small states finish voting, but the would-be nominee doesn't have quite enough to claim victory. Which big state will deliver the decisive increment? The party arranges things so that its most dearly targeted swing state gets that honor. The "rolling" roll call stretches this intelligence-insulting charade from one night to four.
posted by jessamyn at 5:44 PM on August 30, 2004

The ones who are passing are trying to set themselves up to be the delegation that puts him over the top in votes needed to nominate. Often, the candidate's home state is given the "honor" of doing this, but other times the delegations try to jockey for this.

When the outcome is already known in advance, as it is this year, there is precious little for the delegations to do, so this gives them a bit of action. In the past, when delegations might actually split over a candidate, or when it was going to be close, the jockeying could affect the outcome of the convention.

(on preview, Dang! Jessamyn beat me to it)
posted by briank at 5:45 PM on August 30, 2004

Will it be publicly announced how many choose to pass over supporting Bush? I guess that since it's a formality this year, no one will pass anyway.
posted by tracicle at 9:21 PM on August 30, 2004

I believe, tracicle, that the ones that "passed" will get a second chance to add their tally of delegates, most likely after the nomination is technically passed.
posted by Vidiot at 6:59 AM on August 31, 2004

So, has a current (first term) President ever failed to get nominated by his party?
posted by ZippityBuddha at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2004

well, would be nice if it happened this year. but usually (and as far as i know) it doesn't happen, 'cause the political weight of the office helps in the election. debates between "president X" and "senator Y" kind of can't help but reinforce the fact that mr. X is already president, and as such has already demonstrated that he can do it, while mr. Y has yet to prove himself in the oval office; and don't think the party in office will miss the chance to push that perception to the max.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:47 AM on August 31, 2004

So, has a current (first term) President ever failed to get nominated by his party?

There seem to be two who were mounting a serious campaign who were not renominated:

Millard Fillmore, in 1852:
Some of the more militant northern Whigs remained irreconcilable, refusing to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act. They helped deprive him of the Presidential nomination in 1852.
Franklin Pierce, in 1856:
By the end of his administration, Pierce could claim "a peaceful condition of things in Kansas." But, to his disappointment, the Democrats refused to renominate him, turning to the less controversial Buchanan.
Chester A. Arthur was officially seeking re-nomination in 1884, but apparently was not running wholeheartedly:
Arthur demonstrated as President that he was above factions within the Republican Party, if indeed not above the party itself. Perhaps in part his reason was the well-kept secret he had known since a year after he succeeded to the Presidency, that he was suffering from a fatal kidney disease. He kept himself in the running for the Presidential nomination in 1884 in order not to appear that he feared defeat, but was not renominated, and died in 1886.
Several presidents chose not to seek an additional term: Tyler, Polk, Buchanan, Coolidge, both Johnsons. (Arguably Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson were not "first-term" presidents when they decided not to run again, having served out part of a term on the death of a president plus a full term that they were elected to.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2004

Thanks, DevilsAdvocate
posted by ZippityBuddha at 9:14 AM on August 31, 2004

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