Campaign 2004 may have forever changed the conventional wisdom on conventions. They're not supposed to matter anymore, now that front-loaded primary schedules determine nominees far in advance.
This year, however, the conventions did matter. The Democrats' get-together in Boston harped endlessly on John Kerry's war-hero image, yet polls showed few voters bought it: For the first time since George McGovern in 1972, the nominee failed to get a post-convention "bounce" in national surveys.
But after a GOP convention focused on compassion at home and leadership abroad, President Bush's poll numbers jumped by 5 percentage points or more. Despite the networks' dismissal of the parties' dog-and-pony shows, Americans clearly were watching-and they liked what they saw in New York better than Boston.