16 Big Moments from Political Convention History
After over a year of announcements, trading barbs, debates, primaries, caucuses, a few more debates, lots of polls, intense news coverage, state conventions and endorsements, we're finally here. It's convention season!
The Republicans (in Cleveland) and the Democrats (in Philadelphia) are set to hold their big party meetings to officially nominate their candidates for president -- Donald Trump for Republicans and Hillary Clinton for Democrats. But before the platforms are debated and delegates are counted, here's a look back at big convention moments from years past to get you ready:
1. Clint Eastwood talks to a chair in 2012
Hours before Mitt Romney was to accept his party's presidential nomination, Clint Eastwood took the stage as a "mystery guest" to the 2012 Republican convention. He told an empty chair on stage that was meant to symbolize President Obama that the nation's unemployment situation was "a national disgrace" and that "this administration hasn't done enough to cure that." He also told the "imaginary" Obama, "What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. That. He can't do that to himself. You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden." The speech was seen as rambling, odd and comical.
2. Obama delivers 2004 DNC keynote
Organizers for the 2004 Democratic convention called upon a rising star in the party to deliver a primetime speech to the nation. That July, the nation met a young Senate candidate from Illinois named Barack Obama. Obama’s first national speech was a preview of the candidate Americans would see in future presidential runs. "I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story," he said.
3. Bill Clinton's endless 1988 DNC speech
Then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton considered entering the 1988 campaign for president, but declined. Instead, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis gave him a coveted speaking slot at the 1988 convention in Atlanta. Clinton's time to shine did not go well, to put it mildly. His speech dragged on for over 30 minutes. His best applause line? "In conclusion ..." But it wasn’t all bad news for Clinton, who would go on to capture the party’s nomination and the presidency four years later.
4. 1968 DNC in Chicago
A bitterly divided Democratic Party, which lost one of its prized candidates during primary season, gathered in Chicago. With no clear winner between Sens. George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, the party establishment chose a third person as the nominee: Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had not competed in the primary contests. Combine the chaos inside the convention hall with anti-Vietnam War demonstrations happening outside and it was a recipe for disaster. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley attempted to quell the demonstrations -- broadcast on television for the eyes of the nation -- with police force. "Early in the evening, even Mr. Humphrey got a whiff of tear gas when it was wafted through his window at the Hilton from the street fighting below," reported The New York Times. "Mr. McCarthy saw some of the violence from his window and called it 'very bad.'"
5. Ferrarro accepts VP nomination in 1984
Cheers of "Geraldine!" erupted when Ferraro took the stage to accept her historic vice presidential nomination in 1984. She was the first women nominated to a major party ticket in American history. While Ferraro and presidential nominee Walter Mondale ended up losing 49 of 50 states in the general election, commentator Ken Rudin recalled the moment: "it was history, it was dramatic, and there were tears running down nearly every cheek I could find." It took 24 years for another woman to land on a party ticket when the GOP nominated Sarah Palin for VP in 2008. Now, 32 years later, the Democratic Party is set to make history again, nominating Hillary Clinton as the first woman on top of a major party ticket.
6. Ford-Reagan battle creates GOP convention chaos in 1976
A drawn-out GOP primary fight between President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan went right to the convention in Kansas City in 1976. Ford pulled out the nomination, but the crowd cheered mightily for Reagan. In an attempted show of party unity, Ford called Reagan down to the stage to address the crowd. At the time, it was thought Reagan's 1976 run would be his swansong, as he was 65 years old at the time. But four years later, he would capture the nomination and the White House.
7. Ted Kennedy snubs Jimmy Carter in 1980
As was the case with Ford vs. Reagan four years earlier, Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy attempted to unseat a sitting U.S. president in a primary. Their fight continued onto the convention floor, where Kennedy attempted to steal some of Jimmy Carter’s delegates by overthrowing the pledged delegate system. Even though Kennedy failed and Carter won the nomination, Kennedy's convention speech seemed to inspire the crowd. Plus, a lack of Democratic unity -- demonstrated in a supposed snub, where Kennedy avoided striking a "unity pose" with the president -- helped doom Carter's run.
8. Sarah Palin accepts 2008 VP nomination
When John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, he "astonished the political world," The New York Times wrote. Who is Palin? Why did John McCain pick her? The country met Palin during her 2008 vice presidential nomination acceptance speech. In describing her background, she uttered this key line: "I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA. I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
9. Reagan says farewell in 1988
In what The New York Times called an "emotional address," President Reagan called on Americans to support George H.W. Bush in his own run for the White House. He also thanked them for his eight years as president. "There's still a lot of brush to clear out at the ranch, fences that need repair, and horses to ride. But I want you to know that if the fires ever dim, I'll leave my phone number and address behind just in case you need a foot soldier," he told the convention. He also made an emotional endorsement of Bush at the 1992 convention, two years before he announced his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
10. 2000 Democratic VP nominee Joe Lieberman addresses 2008 RNC
Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, broke off with his party to win his Senate seat back in 2006. Two years later, as an independent U.S. senator who caucused with the Democrats, he spoke to the RNC as a John McCain supporter. "I am here tonight because John McCain's whole life testifies to a great truth: Being a Democrat or a Republican is important, but it is nowhere near as important as being an American," he said. A politician cross party lines to deliver a major convention speech is not unprecedented. In 2004, Zell Miller, a Democratic senator from Georgia, delivered the keynote address to the Republican National Convention. Miller not only criticized Democratic nominee John Kerry, but his own party: "Today, at the same time, young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of a Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief."
11. Mario Cuomo keynotes the 1984 DNC
While the nomination was Walter Mondale's, the show belonged to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo during the 1984 Democratic National Convention. He chided President Reagan for his constant talk of America being "a shining city on a hill." "Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill,'" he said. Cuomo would go on to contemplate several bids to run for the White House, but ended up passing, earning him the nickname "Hamlet on the Hudson."
12. "The Kiss"
Vice President Al Gore joined his wife, Tipper, on stage during the 2000 Democratic National Convention with "a full-mouthed kiss that lasted a exceptionally long time," noted The New York Times. (They also note that it lasted three long seconds.) Talking heads analyzed the kiss for its political capital. They said it was "both a calculated attempt to humanize Gore and a statement of monogamy intended to show that he was his own man and not like his boss, Bill Clinton," TIME magazine reported. The Gores eventually split up in 2010.
13. "Read my lips: No new taxes."
George H.W. Bush accepted his party's nomination in 1988 with two bold phrases. On top of calling for "a kinder, gentler nation," he made a promise that would find itself in many of his future campaign speeches and would later come back to bite him: "The Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no, and they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again, and I'll say to them, 'Read my lips: no new taxes.'"
14. Bush "was born with a silver foot in his mouth"
Texas Treasurer Ann Richards used her 1988 Democratic National Convention speech to catapult her political career. She called then-Vice President George H.W. Bush someone who "was born with a silver foot in his mouth." The convention hall erupted in cheers. Two years later, she was elected governor of Texas. But she lost her re-election bid to a guy named George W. Bush.
15. Ted Kennedy swan-song speech at DNC
Kennedy, "the Lion of the Senate," made one last appearance to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Battling terminal brain cancer, he opened the convention saying that "nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight." He famously supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton during their intense primary. The moment was huge in presidential politics, as the brother of John and Robert Kennedy passed the torch to a new generation led by Obama. The endorsement was seen as a massive boost to Obama’s campaign. The senator from Massachusetts served until his death in 2009.
16. Hillary Clinton nominates Barack Obama at 2008 convention
This year’s Democratic presidential nominee is no stranger to long, drawn-out primaries. Eight years before defeating Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton fought now-President Barack Obama for the nomination. She ultimately conceded the month before the convention, leaving many of her die-hard fans disappointed and embittered about the Democratic Party. To assuage their concerns and signal party unity, Clinton herself called for Obama’s nomination from the convention floor -- to thunderous applause.