Mock Con’s Presidential Gala Creates Convention Buzz The 28th Mock Convention’s Presidential Gala on Nov. 12 offered the campus a glimpse of the upcoming excitement for the 2024 mock presidential convention.
“I think it was a really important way to bring the campus together — because that’s what Mock Con is all about. It’s not ‘work’ to go to a dance with your friends, but it builds connection between all parts of the student body, and, in my eyes, that’s the real goal of Mock Con.”
~ Connor McNamara ’24
Washington and Lee’s campus is now 86 days away from its 2024 Mock Convention, and students were treated to a preview of the convention’s excitement this weekend during the Mock Convention Presidential Gala.
The event was held for the first time at both the Duchossois Tennis Center and Outing Club Pavilion. The university community donned formal attire and enjoyed a live band in a transformed tennis center and pavilion, which served as the bar area for those over 21. The convention’s operations team incorporated several new design elements into transforming the tennis center, such as the presidential seal on the dance floor and signs from downtown Lexington to highlight this cycle’s “Mock Con Meets Main Street” initiative to support small businesses. The committee sold approximately 1,400 tickets leading up to the night of the gala.
“This is the first event since Delegates’ Day on Sept. 6, when many students joined their Mock Con delegation, where everyone has a seat at the table,” said Carly Snyder ’24, Mock Convention’s operations chair.
“It is always rewarding to see months of event planning come off, but this event was unique from most previous events in this cycle as we had the capacity to engage all members of the student body,” Snyder continued. “It was gratifying to see students across all class years come together to celebrate the rapid approach of the convention weekend.”
Mock Convention is a simulated presidential nominating convention held on campus every four years, focusing on the party currently out of power in the White House. Its goal is to predict the candidate that party will nominate to run for president of the United States. Approximately 98% of W&L’s student body will have participated in some aspect of the convention by the time it is held Feb. 9-11, 2024, when it will feature a citywide parade, notable speakers and the predicted nomination. At its core, the convention is an experiment by the undergraduate student body that is designed to inform students and the public of the state and history of U.S. politics, providing valuable context for current political affairs and discourse within the framework of an academic community. The convention, founded in 1908, is one of the university’s longest-running traditions. It is also the nation’s most accurate mock political nominating convention, with 74% accuracy over its 115-year history.
Foster Harris ’24, who serves as the convention’s political chair, said the predictive modeling at the core of Mock Convention’s educational mission will kick into high gear from now until the convention. Harris will work alongside seven regional chairs, a platform chair, two political analysts and a political outreach chair, which is a new position this year.
“Our job is to look at the bigger picture,” Harris said. “The state chairs will be looking at what’s going on in each of their states, but we’re looking at, for example, the sequencing of what state is voting when so that we can try to predict who’s going to still be in the race by the time Super Tuesday comes around, and we’ve already seen notable dropouts. We always have to keep that national picture in mind.”
Northeast Regional Chair Connor McNamara ’24, who also serves as president of W&L’s College Democrats, said the predictive team is working hard this year on both outreach and data analysis.
“Those are the two key aspects of the prediction,” McNamara said. “My fellow regional chairs and I are plugged into the polling, and our state chairs are doing awesome outreach work. We’ll analyze those together to build the most accurate prediction possible.”
The team is also finalizing its mock Republican Party platform, which is currently in the editing phase. Harris said the team has been focused on strengthening campaign contacts.
Said Harris: “For example, our platform chair, Claire Cerone ’24, has had Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee review the tax portions of our platform to make sure that they were accurate and reflective of what the Republican Party currently stands for, and we’re working on doing that for each area of the platform.”
Mock Convention representatives are in contact with candidates’ campaign teams, political journalists, grassroots organizations and other key players in the presidential election cycle, both in and outside of Washington. Most of the political steering committee also plans to attend the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15, 2024.
One of the biggest tasks between now and February will be to finalize the convention’s copious list of speakers. The team will begin to announce speakers as they are finalized in mid-to-late January. Since its inception, the convention has brought five U.S. Presidents to campus — Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden — among countless vice presidents, representatives, journalists and other thought leaders. Recent notable Mock Con speakers include former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara Bush; former host of “The Daily Show” Trevor Noah; and Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Mike Pence.
McNamara said the gala was reflective of how Mock Con brings the campus together and unites students behind “a single common enterprise.”
“I think it was a really important way to bring the campus together — because that’s what Mock Con is all about,” McNamara said. “It’s not ‘work’ to go to a dance with your friends, but it builds connection between all parts of the student body, and, in my eyes, that’s the real goal of Mock Con.”
Find more information and updates on the 2024 Mock Convention here.