The Columns

W&L Mock Convention: At Its Core, a Research Project

— by on February 3rd, 2016

The Washington and Lee University Mock Convention is a mock presidential nominating process with over 100 years of success. Every four years, Mock Convention attempts to predict who the party currently out of power in the White House will nominate to run for president of the United States. Distinguished by unmatched accuracy and undergraduate participation rates, Mock Convention has attracted some of the most respected names in politics to Lexington over its 108-year history.

Mock Convention is, at its core, a research project. Since the inaugural convention in 1908, Washington and Lee students have been correct in their prediction 19 times out of 25. They’ve been correct about the Republican Party since 1948.

The students’ track record of accuracy is a reflection of their organized and thorough research efforts. Mock Convention’s research project is driven by 56 state and territory delegations comprising enthusiastic students who are charged with conducting extensive research to predict the eventual nomination of a candidate. These delegations work in conjunction with national and regional specialists by using the most up-to-date poll numbers and political analyses. Students work closely with some of the most influential political operatives in every state to get the most accurate information possible.

The research project will conclude on Feb. 13, when Mock Convention conducts its roll call, during which each delegation indicates where its votes will go, and finally announces who it believes will be the Republican nominee for president. Convention weekend is a spirited event attended by a student body responsible for executing the time-honored tradition and eager to determine who could be the actual nominee in the upcoming election.

“The state chairs and their delegations have been Mock Convention’s eyes and ears in their respective states, analyzing data points and making crucial contacts that guide our prediction process,” explains Mock Convention political analyst Kevin Ortiz, a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina. “The regional chairs then synthesize that information for their regions to give us a snapshot of our five regions of the country,” he said. “The national analysts factor in national trends, data points and information from national political strategists.”

Along with the prediction, Mock Convention attempts to create the most realistic convention atmosphere possible. The students will follow the Republican Party’s rules for its upcoming national convention in Cleveland, including a Call to Convention made before Jan. 1, down to actual session rules. Students also create a meticulously researched mock platform that predicts what the students think the Republican Party will focus on during the presidential campaign.

Mock Convention 2016 will feature former Vice President Dick Cheney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), former Republican National Convention Chairman Ed Gillespie, political commentator Ann Coulter and others. In addition to this exciting lineup of speakers, Mock Convention will host a Delegates’ Parade, during which all 56 state and territory delegations will ride homemade floats through downtown Lexington.

Mock Convention 2016 will join a long list of past conventions that together boast a prolific history. The tradition began in 1908, when candidate William Jennings Bryan visited campus, inspiring students to hold a Mock Convention and choose him to represent the Democratic Party in that year’s election. Former Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton have been guests at Mock Convention in the past. Additionally, Alben Barkley, former vice president and U.S. senator from Kentucky, gave the keynote address at Mock Convention 1956. Barkley died of a heart attack while still on stage after stating, “I’m glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.”

Washington and Lee’s Mock Convention hopes to continue its accurate and historic record Feb. 11-13.