'Bouncing' Convention Dates

The Republican National Committee has picked the week of August 30 - September 2 for its national convention; a week that the Democrats say is a possibility for them as well. The Democrats had originally set the week of July 18 for their meeting but started to reconsider after the GOP said they were looking at the end of the summer.

On April 25, 2001 Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe wrote to then GOP Chair Jim Gilmore that "tradition dictates that the party in the White House holds their convention after the challenging party" and "the DNC will hold its Nominating Convention the week of July 18, 2004." Last week, McAuliffe called RNC Chair Marc Racicot to say that they might have to move their date because a six week lag time between conventions would gave the Republicans unfair advantage. Republican sources say that Racicot told McAuliffe to "do what he had to do" but that the GOP was on course to pick one of the three dates they set forth a few weeks ago and expected the Democrats to honor their original date and tradition.

Republicans are citing years of tradition -- going back to the days of Abraham Lincoln where there were months between conventions and say they are hoping that the Democrats will stick with their original date. Democrats say they can't let the Republicans get a post-Olympics bounce and some believe having the two conventions at the same time might not be so bad. "We are very likely to move and the 30th is a strong option, but everything is on the table," said Maria Cardonna, Democratic spokeswoman.

Much of the current jockeying over timing and "bounce" is an indication of how the conventions have changed in their purpose -- from a meeting where parties actually decided who their nominee would be to a forum to showcase their candidates and kick-off the general election campaign.

The Democratic site selection committee meets in Washington on Wednesday to review bids from potential host cities: Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, Miami and New York. They will announce their choice this fall. The Republicans still have over a dozen cities in the mix including those which are bidding for the GOP meeting as well. They will select their city in early 2003.

By Dotty Lynch