In a world in which Hurricane Issac never formed in the Atlantic, we'd have been treated to two Republican conventions in a row with appearances by this year's presumptive Republican nominee.
That video, though, probably wouldn't have done much to goose ratings for the convention. As a general rule, the main draw is the nomination speech of the actual candidate. In both 2008 and 2012, it's been the last night of each party's convention that's gotten the most attention — though Sarah Palin's vice-presidential acceptance speech in 2008 nearly matched John McCain's the following night.
So the question becomes: Can a Donald Trump convention outdo what's happened in the past?
Before the first Republican debate in August of last year, there was speculation about how Trump might goose what were normally fairly mediocre ratings for an early primary debate broadcast. And he did, setting a new record for a cable broadcast.
But that starred Trump, of course, which the first night of the Republican convention this year will not. Or so we assume; part of what may attract attention to the Republican convention this year is the sense that anything could happen. If Scott Baio is bombing out there — yes, he's speaking — will Trump be inspired to come out and start riffing for a bit? Would you be surprised if he did?
Over the long-term, overall convention ratings have sagged. But in 2008, the last time both parties' nominations were contested, there was an uptick. That held for the Democrats in 2012.
Notice that there's no correlation between viewership and victory. In precisely half of the 14 election years since 1960, the party that got more television viewers for its convention also ended up winning. That's a coin flip.
It seems safe to assume that the Republican convention will get a bit more attention this year than did Mitt Romney's four years ago. Donald Trump continues to be a wild card in a way that Romney very much was not. Of course, Romney could have had more viewers if he'd really wanted them. He could simply have made space for Donald Trump's anti-Obama video at some point in his convention, hurricane notwithstanding.