Moments That Clinched the Nomination
This year more than 7,000 delegates are gathering in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to nominate Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as candidates for president. Though nominations have been settled during the primary cycle in recent elections, originally national party conventions began as a way to “democratize” the process of selecting candidates, and nominations were often contentious. Below are some of the more dramatic events that clinched past presidential nominations:
President Woodrow Wilson's former Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo abruptly switched California's 44 votes in favor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the behest of his friend, powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.
Millions of Wendell Willkie supporters backed the businessman via gatherings and telegrams prior to the 1940 Republican Convention. At the convention itself, his supporters chanted "We want Willkie!" incessantly from the galleries. After five ballots for the presidential nominee showed Willkie gaining increasing support, he finally passed Ohio Sen. Robert Taft and Manhattan District Attorney Thomas Dewey to become the nominee on the sixth ballot, despite tailing Dewey by 18 points just days earlier.
Eisenhower credentials victory
In a pitched battle between nominees Taft and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower backers won a credentials challenge and reduced Taft’s delegate count from Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Stevenson vice presidential nomination
Democratic presidential nominee frontrunner Adlai Stevenson broke with tradition by allowing the convention to nominate his vice president, in a move designed to contrast with the less exciting and orderly nature of the upcoming Republican National Convention. This surprising decision resulted in a chaotic first ballot, in which many delegations passed on voting and votes were scattered amongst 13 different candidates, before the final ballot confirmed Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver.
Nominee John F. Kennedy received a unanimous vote from Wyoming in the 1960 Democratic Convention, causing a switch in votes that launched him from a tenuous lead to an overwhelming victory of two to one. Wyoming, being the last state to announce its vote, triggered a sudden surge in support for Kennedy by state delegates who, apparently, independently overestimated the actual level of Kennedy support.
Republican reveal-your-running-mate vote
Nominee Ronald Reagan's faction proposed an amendment to RNC rules that would require candidates to name their running mates before the actual ballots were cast for the presidential nominee. As Reagan had already chosen his running mate and opposing nominee Gerald Ford had not, if passed, this amendment would have freed all delegates from any commitment to vote for Ford. What followed was a "raucous" and "boisterous" series of debates, in which Ford ultimately won by a moderate margin of 1,180 votes to 1,069, indicating his advantage of power in the convention, from which he would go on to win the nomination.
Source: National Party Conventions, 1831-1988. United States: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1991. Print.