The 228 participants in National Journal's Political Insiders Poll were selected because of their campaign experience, insider knowledge, and ties to key voting blocs. The votes of 170 Insiders--85 Democrats and 85 Republican--were counted for this survey.
Q: On a scale of zero (it doesn't) to 10 (it absolutely does), how much does your party's chance of winning the White House hinge on having a successful convention?
Democrats (85 votes)
AVERAGE SCORE: 4.6
0-3 39% 4-6 34% 7-10 27%
Not very much (0 to 3)
0. "More people will be watching Law and Order reruns than the convention."
2. "Obama will give a good speech. Much more important will be how he fares in the debates."
2. "You have to be able to plan and execute prom [night], but it doesn't really help you graduate."
3. "A convention is like a car: People take it for granted it will run but get very angry if it doesn't."
3. "This election will be determined based on the contrast between candidates, not their parties--which bodes better for Republicans."
A moderate amount (4 to 6)
4. "A bad convention hurts; a mediocre or good one is neutral."
5. "Since we are having a big show at a big venue, we will need an equally big reaction."
5. "I'm assuming we will be allowed to go after Bush and McCain, unlike the idiotic Kerry folks in 2004. We'll do fine. Hard to imagine that Barack's speech at Invesco Field won't be a home run."
6. "Obama is not dependent on the convention to change current political dynamics, which are very good for him. A good, solid convention is all Obama needs."
6. "McCain needs the bump; Obama just needs to not screw it up."
A lot (7 to 10)
7. "The convention and the VP pick will be the biggest news between now and the election."
7. "Normally, I'd have graded this a 1 or 2 with a comment about 'as long as no one sets anything on fire, we should be fine.' However, since Obama has announced he's making a huge speech for 75,000 to see, he's placing a lot more emphasis on the ending of our convention than anyone else."
8. "We need to put on a convention that doesn't show a rift in the party."
9. "With expectation at the point that Obama is expected to repeat the miracle of feeding 5,000 with two fish and five loaves--while in his case 'feeding' 76,000-plus in Denver's [Invesco Field]--he has to be truly damn good."
Republicans (85 votes)
AVERAGE SCORE: 5.1
0-3 36% 4-6 27% 7-10 36%
Not very much (0 to 3)
0. "All the people that would ever pay attention to the convention have already made up their minds."
1. "This would and should rate a zero, but the one thing that keeps ours interesting to the media is the GOP platform fight."
2. "Conventions really don't matter much anymore. Veep is the only news."
3. "There will be a limited bounce from the coverage: The key is no mistakes or unnecessary controversy."
3. "A convention can help, but people have to watch them first. Look at the viewership numbers: They are too low to have much impact, though the knock-on coverage, if good, can help."
3. "Conventions, VP pick. First rule is the same: Do no harm."
A moderate amount (4 to 6)
4. "It's a great opportunity to alarm the public about the Barack presidency."
4. "Expectations are low, so if McCain can give a good speech and avoid any nasty policy fights with the uber-zealots, he should be OK going into September."
5. "Conventions don't win elections, but they sure as hell can lose you one."
6. "VP pick much more important."
A lot (7 to 10)
7. "A strong show of true unity and enthusiasm at the Republican convention is necessary to provide reassurance and optimism to those millions of Republicans hanging on by a thread."
7. "We need a good convention, one that puts George W. in the rearview mirror and positions McCain as a credible agent of change."
7. "While we will likely never match [Democrats'] theatrics, drama, or even ratings, this could be our last chance to change the subject, go on offense, and dictate terms of the election."
8. "McCain needs to give a speech that changes the broad public impression of him, just as George H.W. Bush did in 1988."
8. "Barring a huge Obama gaffe, the convention might be the last time that McCain can change the dynamic of the race from 'change' to 'experience.' "
9. "Given the state of the Republican brand, it is absolutely crucial that McCain recast the image of the GOP while energizing base voters for the November election."
10. "We need as much as possible going for us to win this one."
10. "We have to thread such a needle to win, everything is a 10."
Democratic Political Insiders Karen Ackerman, Jill Alper, David Axelrod, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Jim Craig, Jerry Crawford, Stephanie Cutter, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Michael Donilon, Tom Donilon, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Eric Eve, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Gordon Fischer, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Don Fowler, Gina Glantz, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Michael Gronstal, Marcia Hale, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Mike Henry, Leo Hindery, Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Shar Knutson, Kam Kuwata, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Sylvia Larsen, Jeff Link, Bill Lynch, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Terry McAuliffe, Caroline McCarley, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Scott Parven, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, John Podesta, Tony Podesta, Bruce Reed, Mame Reiley, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, John Ryan, Wendy Sherman, Terry Shumaker, Phil Singer, Bob Slagle, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Darry Sragow, Karl Struble, Katrina Swett, Sarah Swisher, Eric Tabor, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Mike Veon, Rick Wiener, Bridgette Williams, JoDee Winterhof, and Jim Zogby.
GOP Political Insiders Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Wayne Berman, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Danny Carroll, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Rick Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Steve Duprey, Debi Durham, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Sam Geduldig, Benjamin Ginsberg, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bruce Keough, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris Lacivita, Jim Lake, Chuck Larson, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Bill McInturff, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Ed Rogers, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Don Sipple, Robin Smith, Javier Soto, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Eric Tanenblatt, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Tom Wilson, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, and Fred Wszolek.
This article appears in the Aug. 2, 2008, edition of National Journal.