The Republican National Convention is the presidential nominating convention of the Republican Party of the United States. Convened by the Republican National Committee, the stated purpose of the convocation is to nominate an official candidate in an upcoming U.S. presidential election, and to adopt the party platform and rules for the election cycle.
Like the Democratic National Convention, it signifies the end of a presidential primary season and the start of campaigning for a general election. In recent years, the nominee has been known well before the convention, leading many to oppose the convention as a mere public relations event and coronation.
Historically, the convention was the final determinant of the nomination, and often contentious as various factions of party insiders maneuvered to advance their candidates. Since the almost universal adoption of the primary election for selecting delegates in the last quarter of the 20th century, however, the convention's significance has diminished. The national party focuses on the convention as a unity point to bring together a party platform and state parties.
The size of delegations to the Republican National Convention are determined by Rule 13 of the party’s national rules, which as of 2008 indicate the following:
One alternate delegate is also awarded for each regular delegate except for members of the Republican National Committee.
The composition of the individual state and territory delegations is determined by the bylaws of their respective state and territory parties. Since 1972, almost all have appointed delegates by primary election results, although some, notably Iowa, use caucuses, and others combine the primary with caucuses or with delegates elected at a state convention.
In the past, competing factions of a state party sometimes drew up separate lists of delegates, each claiming to be the official one. One of the first agenda items at a convention is therefore credentialing, whereby the Credentials Committee determines which group is recognized as the official delegation.
To show the calculation of a state's delegation, the following example shows the size of the Texas delegation (based on the current political makeup; Texas is a GOP stronghold):
The Texas delegation would thus consist of 10 + 3 + 96 + 25 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 140 members.
The first Republican National Convention was held at Lafayette Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 22–February 23, 1856. At this convention, the Republican Party was formally organized on a national basis, and the first Republican National Committee was elected. The first Republican National Convention to nominate a presidential candidate convened from June 17–-June 19, 1856 at the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The 1860 convention nominated the first successful GOP presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. The 1864 event, with the American Civil War raging, was branded as the "National Union Convention" as it included Democrats who remained loyal to the Union and nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee for Vice President.
The 1912 Republican convention saw the business-oriented faction supporting William Howard Taft turn back a challenge from former president Theodore Roosevelt, who boasted broader popular support and even won a primary in Taft's home state of Ohio. Roosevelt would run on the Progressive Party ticket, handing the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
The 1940 convention was the first national convention of any party broadcast on live television. It was carried by an early version of the NBC Television Network, and consisted of flagship W2XBS (now WNBC) in New York City, W3XE (now KYW-TV) in Philadelphia and W2XB (now WRGB) in Schenectady/Albany.
The growing importance of primaries became evident at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California, where Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater won the nomination, easily turning away Governor William Scranton and others more favorable to the party establishment.
Similarly, former California Governor Ronald Reagan nearly toppled incumbent President Gerald Ford at the 1976 convention in Kansas City by securing a large bloc of votes in the North Carolina primary. It is the last convention of either major party where the outcome of the nomination battle was in doubt.
Pat Buchanan delivered a speech enthusiastically endorsing the conservative side of the culture war in American society at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. It was widely criticized for supposedly alienating liberal and centrist voters who might otherwise have voted for the moderate nominee, George H. W. Bush. Division in the party was evident too at the 1996 convention, at which more moderate party members such as California governor Pete Wilson and Massachusetts Governor William Weld unsuccessfully sought to remove the Human Life Amendment plank from the party platform.
The 2004 Republican National Convention, the first-ever Republican convention in New York City, posed unprecedented security challenges due to its location at Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan directly over Pennsylvania Station.
Political advocates outside of the major parties have complained that both the Democratic and Republican conventions have violated their First Amendment rights to demonstrate, protest and advocate their ideas. Both conventions have restricted protesters to demonstrating in "free speech zones" of fenced-in areas, sometimes surrounded by barbed wire, and not accessible to the delegates. Civil rights lawyers have complained that police indiscriminately arrest demonstrators and charge them with crimes even though they are not breaking the law. In New York 2004, police arrested people and testified under oath that the arrestees had been committing violent acts. Videotapes by bystanders and the New York City police themselves later contradicted that testimony, and showed that at least some arrestees had not been violent. The City has settled lawsuits for false arrest. In 2008, St. Paul required the RNC to buy liability insurance to cover the police for legal fees and judgments arising from legal complaints by protesters.