Sabatos Crystal Ball

Low-Carb Convention Wrap

Matt Smyth, Senior Correspondent July 27th, 2004


Old Guard, Young Blood

Tonight’s agenda of speakers shows a marked difference between the first evening session and the second evening session, with a recognizable slate of long-serving Democrats addressing the convention early, and a fresh line up of new faces wrapping up the evening. Other than The O.C.’s Benjamin McKenzie, most of the early speakers have been around the block a few times: Senator Edward Kennedy, Congressman Dick Gephardt, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

The transition from the first to the second evening session is segued by two of the early competitors for the Democratic nomination, Carol Moseley Braun and Howard Dean. Dean–who is likely to keep his voice down–will be followed by Democratic up and comers AZ Governor Janet Napolitano and IL Senate candidate Barack Obama. Obama, who will be delivering the evening’s keynote speech, is a hot commodity at the convention; his campaign buttons, simply reading “OBAMA,” have spread throughout the Fleet Center this week.

While the Crystal Ball recognizes that the conventions are for the most part a week long motivational session for partisans on each side, there is a level of excitement that can only benefit the political process. There has been a noticeable effort to involve more young people this week, beyond just showing off the younger members of the party, and change the trend of dismal participation and turnout numbers of the 18-24 demographic. Republicans are certain to make the same effort in New York next month, because in such a closely divided electorate, any headway that can be made with a traditionally non-participatory group could make the difference come November.

Thou dost Protest too Much, Methinks

Protests and demonstrations outside the Fleet Center and around Boston continued on Tuesday, with themes including anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-animal testing, and simply anti-Bush. While there is an established “free speech zone” set up in close proximity to the convention site, few of the demonstrations have actually taken place there, as many of the groups involved feel the site is poorly located, too small, and not conducive to exposure to delegates and press as they make their way inside. Several small scale protests have sprung up, with participants numbering less than the threshold that would require a permit, and groups occasionally work around the zone. On Monday, a “flip-flop parade” marched from Merrimac Street to Canal Street, attracting the interest of passersby, members of the media, and–of course–quite a few of the many security officers present.

Extreme (Coverage) Makeover

Despite criticism from some quarters, after one day into the Democratic National Convention, the network honchos who decided to continue the trend of drastically rolling back their coverage of the four-day extravaganza aren’t looking so foolish after all.

Each of the big three networks–ABC, NBC, and CBS–have each only planned on airing three hours of convention coverage this week. But even with a line-up that included former President Bill Clinton at his finest, the little time the networks devoted to the Dems last night was hardly likely to encourage their increased attention in the future.

According to the Nielsen overnights, Monday night’s most watched program among the 18-49 demographic was “CSI: Miami,” with a 3.6 average rating, while Fox garnered the highest rating as an overall network at a 2.7 average rating. Nightly news viewership was staggeringly low. ABC’s broadcast with Peter Jennings came in at a 3.5 average rating, NBC’s Tom Brokaw at 3.3 and CBS’s Dan Rather at 3.2. All are down from coverage of the 2000 election.

Low ratings don’t bode well for those looking for lengthy coverage on the networks. Not only has the average convention coverage time fallen from the five hours of 2000, but it has also been spiraling downward over the past few decades. The 1960s and 1970s saw 30-plus hours of coverage, but most observers will point to 1980 as the end of an era of comprehensive network broadcasts.

None of the networks are slated to air convention coverage Tuesday night. PBS, however, will continue with its 3-hour-a-night broadcast of “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” and viewers can tune in to CSPAN for gavel-to-gavel coverage.

– Becky Krystal, Staff Writer

Prime Time Viewing Guide