What is the role of national conventions? .
National conventions are held every four years, and is the only time the party meets nationally. National conventions have a multitude of roles, the key reason being that the Presidential candidates are chosen by the Democrat and Republican parties. Historically, there were several candidates at the convention and the nominee was finally chosen only after a succession of ballots, compromises, and deals in "smoke-filled rooms". Nowadays, however, the candidate is invariably known before the convention even begins because most of the convention delegates are pledged to back the person who won their state primary. Often the other candidates will have decided to withdraw although, within the Democratic Party, both Jesse Jackson (1988) and Jerry Brown (1992) insisted that a formal convention vote be taken. Nonetheless, since 1956, every presidential nominee has won on the first ballot, and hence conventions are merely to officially recognise an already anointed candidate. .
The convention also considers and agrees upon the Party's Platform, but it is either full of high generalities or largely ignored by the candidate. Nevertheless, it acts as an important arena for party factions, who seek to adopt positions closer to their preferred causes. For example, in 1996, there was a fierce debate around the precise character of the Republican Party's strong anti-abortion position. .
The Presidential nominee also announces his vice-Presidential candidate or "running mate". The nominee's choice is often the subject of speculation before the convention. According to the traditional wisdom, the ticket should be "balanced" - the Vice Presidential candidate is complementary to the President. He could be from the different part of the country, or a different wing of the party. Al Gore, for example, chose Joe Liebermann as his running mate in 2000 in order to gain the Jewish vote.