8 Questions

Dan Balz on topics that will shape the 2012 campaign in the final 100 days

Question 8: With the conventions back-to-back, will either candidate get any real bounce in the polls?

The conventions will be held on consecutive weeks: Republicans in Tampa starting Aug. 27, Democrats starting a week later in Charlotte. Romney has the most at stake, the most work to do, and the biggest potential gain.

Conventions are anachronistic but still important. They're anachronistic because they lack drama, excitement or suspense. All the significant decisions have been made in advance, and the two nominees control all events and script them down to the minute.

But they are still important for many of the same reasons. Candidates can present themselves to the voters largely unfiltered. They write the script as they see fit. They tell the story the way they want it told. That sounds simple, but it isn't.

Some past conventions have changed the course of campaigns. In 1992, Bill Clinton was running third behind George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot the month before his convention but came roaring out of his convention ahead, thanks in part to Perot's unexpected decision to drop out of the race. George H.W. Bush helped turn around his campaign in 1988 with his "Read my lips, no new taxes" acceptance speech.

Republicans think that a successful convention will launch Romney into the final two months of campaigning. Democrats argue that Obama, by going second, will be able to rebut what happens in Tampa. But neither side expects lasting changes in the polls from the conventions.

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