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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Election 2012: Previewing the party conventions

  • When big-name Republicans and Democrats soon gather for national conventions, Michael Fortner — an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University — said it will be similar to a season finale of “Dancing With the Stars.”

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  • When big-name Republicans and Democrats soon gather for national conventions, Michael Fortner — an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University — said it will be similar to a season finale of “Dancing With the Stars.”
    Much like a final episode of the glittery reality show, past contestants — in this case, former GOP presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum to former President Bill Clinton — will be there. And the intensity of the campaign that's been building all season will end when one person, in this case, eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney, is officially named the winner who will challenge President Obama for the White House in November.
    “It may just be good television,” Fortner said. “If you want fresh drama, people should watch.”
    While it should come as no surprise that former Mass. Gov. Romney will earn the Republican party's nomination, Fortner said national conventions can be the ultimate reality show. Old political rivals are there to support each other, meaning what they say — or don't say — can create a soap opera of sorts. The speeches and their quality can be scrutinized, as well as who's chosen to speak and who's not.
    Here's a few facts to know about the conventions as they approach, as well as a few reasons to tune in and watch.
    * During the Republican National Convention, which takes place in Tampa, Fla., from Monday to Aug. 30, the roster is full of names that opposed Romney in the past. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — Romney’s stiffest competition during the primaries — will give a primetime address. Arizona Sen. John McCain of Arizona is also set to speak, as is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both men, along with Romney, vied for the presidential nomination four years ago, with McCain earning the top spot. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also scheduled to speak, in addition to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
    * The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, N.C., from Sept. 3 to Sept. 6. The lineup of speakers is set to include Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Jimmy Carter, who will address the crowd via video during prime time. Meanwhile, former President Clinton will deliver the keynote address on Sept. 5. Fortner thinks Clinton will play a “huge role” in reaching out to white, working-class Democratic voters who've gown disenchanted with Obama because of the economy and unemployment. “I can't wait to see what Bill Clinton says,” Fortner said.
    * In addition to being a place where delegates officially nominate each party's presidential candidate, the convention serves as a time for parties to adopt and ratify their platforms. This year, Fortner said Democrats are expected to change their platform and support marriage equality for same-sex couples. It's a switch he likens to the party changing its stance decades ago to support civil rights, but he said unless it's mentioned during one of the convention's major speeches, “it probably won't get much coverage.”
    Page 2 of 2 - * Another purpose of the conventions, said Anthony Nownes, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is providing an “opportunity for the parties to expose us to who they consider to be their upcoming stars.” For instance, a little-known politician captured the nation's attention during the 2004 Democratic convention by giving a powerful speech. Four years later, that man — Obama — won the White House. This year, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro will be the first Latino keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Fortner thinks this could signal the importance of Hispanics in America and the political process.
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