Conventions Still Matter, Cheney an Excellent Choice, UMass Amherst Political Scientists Say

AMHERST, Mass. - The Republican National Convention in Philadelphia is tightly scripted for, and viewed through the filter of the national media, but it still will reveal some important things about the party and presidential nominee Gov. George W. Bush, says Michael T. Hannahan, assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts.

"Conventions still matter," says Hannahan, a part-time political consultant and former Republican official in Massachusetts. "They give some indication of how well the candidate and the candidate''s party can manage important events. This is often seen as a key to leadership skills."

Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, associate professor of political science, says, "The reception for John McCain will tell us a lot about the party and its mood for the upcoming election. Bush must give a good speech and the party mood needs to be optimistic, not negative."

The conventions can also help paint a picture of the party that will influence the election, Hannahan says. "I would look at how well does the production, look, sound, and feel of the convention support the Bush campaign''s message of harmony, compromise, and centrism. Will outside events such as protests clash with the message inside the convention hall?"

Hannahan also says media coverage of the convention is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. "This year''s conventions are the first to so aggressively pursue alternative media forms. Both parties send out regular e-mail broadcasts and there are a host of Web sites with gavel-to-gavel coverage," Hannahan says.

On the choice of former defense secretary and Wyoming congressman Richard Cheney as vice presidential nominee, Hannahan says, "He is a great pick. Safe, conservative, but not too conservative, and of just the right amount of stature - which is to say Cheney stands tall in the political world, but not taller than the candidate."

Sedgwick echoes that view. "The choice of Cheney was brilliant. It finessed a floor fight on abortion and broadcast that George W. Bush is secure enough with himself to pick a heavyweight running mate," Sedgwick says. "The Democrats in response have been pushed into appearing negative about a distinguished public servant."

Michael Hannahan can be reached at 413/256-8884. Jeffrey Sedgwick can be reached at 413/545-6189 or 413/253-5022.