Sabatos Crystal Ball

Boston Morning Tea

Matt Smyth, Senior Correspondent July 26th, 2004


The gavel drops later today, marking the official opening of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Of course, convention related activities have been going on for several days now, including a welcome party for media organizations on Saturday. The Crystal Ball resisted the temptation to be wooed, and instead chose to spend its time in preparation for a busy week of coverage.

Official welcome receptions for state delegations took place throughout the city on Sunday, but not everyone here in town is in support of the convention. The weekend witnessed several organized protests, including an anti-war rally at the Fleet Center, an anti-abortion demonstration outside of Faneuil Hall, a march by families of 9/11 victims ending at Copley Square, and a protest by LaRouche supporters outside of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The big names addressing the convention this evening include former president Jimmy Carter, Senator Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton, 2000 nominee Al Gore, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and convention chair and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Also, one of John Kerry’s Vietnam crewmates–David Alston–will speak during prime time. Don’t expect to hear a lot of substance from many of today’s speakers, but rather a high level of excitement and positive talk about the party and the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

A lesser-known name who will take the podium today is Memphis, TN’s Michael Negron, who won MTV’s “Speak Out for the Future” contest, which asked young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 to submit entries outlining the importance of politics and how youth can get more involved in the political process. The 18 to 24 age group consistently exhibits the lowest percentage of voter turnout and participation in the political process (for more information on youth civics education, visit the Center for Politics’ Youth Leadership Initiative at

Useful Useless Information Dose

Since even before the primary and caucus season, a plethora of predictive presidential patterns have been cited in an attempt to foretell–or at least handicap–the results of November’s Bush-Kerry match-up. In fact, National Journal’s The Hotline has done a great job of compiling some of the most notable ones. There are so many that, of course, they have become contradictory, and therefore essentially useless. But, they sure do make things more entertaining.

So, without further ado, the Crystal Ball presents our Democratic National Convention statistic for predicting the winner on Election Day: since the first national convention held by the Democrats, in 1832, only four conventions have been held in the home state of the presidential nominee, and in each case the Democrat later lost in the general election. Interestingly enough, despite the “home court advantage,” several of these conventions were quite trying for the eventual nominee. The earliest instance was the 1868 convention in New York City, where former NY governor Horatio Seymour was not placed atop the ticket until the completion of 22 ballots.

This seeming anomaly became a trend in the twentieth century when the 1924 convention–also in New York–became the lengthiest in history when it stretched to 17 days. At the end of which, former Congressman and Ambassador John Davis emerged victorious. Both of our remaining examples involve the same unfortunate individual, former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, who was nominated both in 1952 (the last Democratic nomination not decided on the first ballot) and 1956 in Chicago.

Not only did the Democratic nominee lose the general election in each of these four years, but he did so in an Electoral College landslide. This does not bode well for John Kerry, who will accept the nomination here in Boston on Thursday night. The Crystal Ball isn’t putting a lot of stock in the predictive value of this little piece of history, but for our readers, maybe it will make for a couple of minutes of interesting conversation over lunch. Another stat to balance it, you ask? Maybe there’s a streak of positive outcomes for candidates who throw out the first pitch at a baseball game during convention week.