The PJ Tatler

Lack of Bounce by Both Candidates Means Further Changes to Conventions

Is there a lack of bounce for a candidate following their convention because of reduced media coverage? Or is there reduced media coverage because few Americans care about the conventions anymore?

More the latter than the former, I would guess. The cable news nets cover the conventions as much as they do to fill air time. But only about a quarter of total viewers watched cable news coverage of the events. Most Americans still turn to the old “Big Three” networks for their convention news.

And ABC, NBC, and CBS have decided that one hour a night is sufficient. This means that saturation coverage is a thing of the past and the parties are going to have to adjust to that reality. It’s hard to get any kind of a bounce when coverage by major TV media is so limited.

It might be that in the near future, the over the air networks will treat conventions as they treat any other “breaking news” story and cover even less of the proceedings. Ed Morrissey even goes so far as to suggest ending the quadrennial shows:

Conventions are an anachronistic throwback to not-so-good old days of party bosses choosing candidates, garner little interest, and make little impact. The question isn’t whether the Republican Party should contract its schedule to one, two, or three nights, or whether Democrats should do the same. It’s why we bother to hold these events at all anymore when the nominees are certain, and why both parties spend tens of millions of dollars on such a useless effort.

While Morrissey makes some good points, there are other reasons to keep some kind of party gathering every four years. Michael Barone agrees with several of Morrissey’s points, but still thinks conventions serve a viable function:

But of course it matters much more how the nominees, Ryan and especially Romney, come across. That’s the whole point of still holding national conventions.

Some pundits lament the demise of the old conventions. But they couldn’t be revived without banning long-distance telephone, the Internet and jet travel.

Contemporary conventions give parties a chance to showcase their nominees. As in much of our politics, an antique form still performs a useful function.

But a $100 million showcase? And the immediate results — the “bounce or no bounce” question — seems to argue for curtailing the event even more.

Gallup shows the president’s approval number rising significantly along with a 4 point bounce in the polls. But Allahpundit puts a few holes in the story:

Gallup’s poll is of registered voters, which always skew Democratic. A 48/45 Obama lead among registereds is a de facto tie among likelies, which is precisely what Rasmussen’s finding. O’s back to even, not out to a lead. And four: Romney’s finally beginning his massive attack-ad offensive against Obama in eight key swing states today. When push comes to shove, it doesn’t much matter how O’s doing in the national daily trackers. It’s the swing-state polls that count.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll is more in tune with Rasmussen:

In what appears to be a convention-induced bounce, Obama jumped ahead in the latest daily tracking poll with 46 percent of 1,434 likely voters saying they would vote for him if the November 6 elections were held today, topping Romney’s 44 percent.

The rolling four-day online poll was conducted through early Friday. The Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Obama accepted his party’s nomination for a second term, wrapped up late on Thursday night with the president’s nationally televised speech.

“The numbers only moved a little bit but they moved in the direction that suggests that we may be seeing the first inkling of a post-convention bump,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.

Romney in the past few days had held a 1 or 2 percentage point lead in the poll in the wake of the Republican convention last week.

The poll does not reflect sentiment following the Labor Department’s release on Friday of August employment numbers, which showed that jobs growth slowed sharply last month.

There are reasons for such incremental movement in the polls one way or another. The fact that most voters have already made up their minds about who to vote for means that the number of persuadables is smaller than in the past. There is also the fact that viewership of the conventions were down this year — although 35 million Americans saw Obama’s speech on Thursday night.

The paltry results as well as waning interest means that we will probably see more changes for the 2016 conventions. Moving the proceedings to the weekend and shortening the program even more have been suggested. Whatever they do, it will no doubt be cheaper, and less emphasis will be placed on the confab as has been in the past.

We no longer have torchlight parades at midnight through the middle of town. I’m sure the parties will survive the downgrade of conventions.