election q&a

What You Need to Know About the Conventions


What is a political convention?

Political conventions are huge meetings held by political parties. In the United States, the national political parties hold their conventions during presidential election years. These massive gatherings are attended by thousands of delegates, members of the media, and other party members.

What happens at a political party’s national convention?

Each major party holds a national convention after the primaries and caucuses are finished. The parties make official their choice of one candidate for president and one candidate for vice president. (The presidential contest is usually settled by the primaries and caucuses before the conventions are held.)

Conventions have other functions besides the official selection of candidates for president and vice president. These gatherings also give members of the political parties a chance to discuss and decide on their party’s platform, or where the party stands on important issues like education, health care, and foreign policy.

Large portions of the conventions are televised in prime time. In addition to being the official kick off for the presidential campaigns, the conventions serve as extended infomercials for the two main parties to get voters interested and excited about their candidates and platforms.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will most likely be the Republican nominee for president. He has not yet announced who his choice for vice president will be. (A presidential candidate talks with other leaders in his or her party about who would be the best choice for vice president.)

Unless something major happens, Democratic delegates will re-nominate current President Barack Obama as their presidential candidate. Current Vice President Joe Biden will most likely be President Obama’s running mate.

What is a delegate?

A delegate is a member of a political party who helps determine the party’s presidential nominee. Delegates are usually longtime party members, and they vote on the nominee at the party’s national convention (see below). Most of them are required to vote for a certain candidate. Their vote is determined by the result of primaries or caucuses in their home states. Some delegates are “unpledged,” and can vote for whomever they wish.

What is a super delegate?

A super delegate has the power to fly during their party’s convention. No, not really. A super delegate is typically a member of Congress, a Governor, and/or a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. Their loyalty to a particular candidate is unpledged, meaning they can vote for any candidate they wish. The Republican party does not use super delegates, only the Democratic party does.

When and where are this year’s political conventions?

The Republican National Convention will be held August 27 to 30 in Tampa, Florida. The Democratic National Convention will be held September 4 to 6 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What happens after the conventions?

The two major candidates will officially launch their campaigns. Although both sides have already been making speeches and running ads, their campaign activities will intensify, and the candidates will take part in televised debates. There will be three televised debates between the presidential candidates, and one between the two vice presidential candidates. The first will take place on October 3 in Denver, Colorado. The second will be held in Hempstead, New York, on October 16. And the third will be take place on October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida. A vice presidential debate will be held on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky. The general election will be held on November 6, 2012.

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