According to political scientist James I. Lengle, "The ultimate test of any nominating system is its ability to attract and elect the most qualified, talented, and experienced politicians of each generation." 1 How well has the U.S. national nominating convention system measured up to Lengle's criteria for leadership recruitment?
Since national conventions and the presidential election cycle roll around only every four years, the utility of this unique nominating institution receives only occasional attention from public officials, the media, and academics. One thoughtful study of the national nominating convention by political scientist Byron E. Shafer, which appeared almost a decade ago, can serve as a starting point for an analysis of this remarkable political invention. 2
Shafer has used the term bifurcated convention to describe the late- twentieth-century national nominating convention. 3 By this term, Shafer means there are, in effect, two national conventions: One takes place on the convention floor as the delegates go through the formal deliberations of approving the party platform, ratifying the anointed "nominee" selected in the primaries, and selecting the vice presidential nominee (handpicked by the presidential nominee), and listening to the acceptance speeches. The second convention is the made-for-television convention carried into millions of homes as viewers watch the proceedings on their TV screens.
According to Shafer, "the nomination effectively departed the conven