The first political organization to hold a national convention, the Anti-Masonic Party, convened in Baltimore in September of 1831 to nominate William Wirt as its official candidate. On May 21-23 of the following year, the Democrats of the nation held their own convention in the same city. By 1840, the Democratic and Whig Parties had adopted the national convention as the standard mechanism of nomination. Since then, the most important parties have utilized this standard.
Parties hold their national conventions during the summer immediately preceding the kickoff of campaign season for the general presidential election. The three main objectives of national conventions are: a) the nomination of candidates for party President and Vice-President; b) defining the party platform, including the formulation and adoption of the party’s declaration of principles; and c) defining party activities, rules, and procedures, especially regarding the nomination process of presidential candidates in the next election cycle.
Thanks to a solid proposal by the Host Committee that surpassed those of other cities being considered, the National Republican Committee announced in February of 2006 that the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP08) would officially host the 39th National Convention, to be held on September 1-4, 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center, with additional events at various sites around the metro area.
This is not the first time that the Republican Party has chosen the Twin Cities as its convention site; in 1892, 116 years ago, the Party convened here for the 10th National Convention to officially nominate Benjamin Harrison as its presidential candidate. Coincidentally, that Convention, held at the close of the 19th Century, was the first in history to have women in attendance. It was also the first to have a woman give a public address: “We are here to help you, and we have come to stay,” stated J. Ellen Foster, president of the Women’s National Republican Association. This time around, at the onset of the 21st Century, the position of women has changed radically. We now have large numbers of women in positions of government leadership. Condoleezza Rice serves as U.S. Secretary of State, in company with a significant number of female Governors, Senators, and Representatives.
The task of planning and administering the Republican Convention falls to the Republican National Committee. Jo Ann Davidson, Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, is planning director for the convention, and Maria Cino, President and CEO of the 2008 National Republican Convention, will oversee daily operations. In this role, Mario Cino will serve as a liaison between the Host Committee, state and federal offices, and community leaders. In addition, Ms. Cino will supervise personnel appointed by the Party to carry out preparations for this convention.
This Planning Committee is prevented by law from soliciting convention funds, a function that falls to another entity. In order to finance events such as this, the Federal Elections Commission allocates $16.3 million in federal funds to the Republican and Democratic Conventions. The remaining costs of the convention become the responsibility of the Host Committee, a non-profit organization made up of political, business, and community leaders whose task is to direct convention preparations. Douglas Leatherdale was named Committee President in August of 2007.
Among the 60,000 visitors to the Twin Cities during the 4 days of the convention will be 2,380 state delegates, 2,239 alternate delegates, and members of the national and international news media. An estimated $150 to $160 million will pour into the metro area economy during that time. Between 40 and 50 thousand activists are expected to participate in the anti-war march also scheduled for September 1, the opening day of the Convention. Protesters will march from the State Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center, where most convention events will take place.
Convention participants will include current U.S. President George W. Bush and Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain. The Department of Homeland Security has therefore classified the convention as high-security; the United States Secret Service (U.S.S.S.) will be heading up security operations. Convention staff will work in conjunction with the Secret Service and with local, state, and federal law enforcement to guarantee a successful event. In addition, every effort will be made to ensure that local businesses remain open to the public and that auto traffic problems are kept to a minimum. The Federal Government has allocated a sum of $50 million to the St. Paul Police Department to help ensure convention security. The majority of these dollars will be used for salaries and overtime pay.
The convention schedule will include morning and afternoon sessions daily, culminating on Thursday in John McCain’s candidacy acceptance speech, during which Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (a serious contender for the Vice-Presidency), will share the platform with the candidate. The Republican National Convention 2008, through its general program focus, will be a prime opportunity for the Republican Party to show its momentum and unity.