Covering these gatherings reminds me of the story of the blind man and the elephant. Those of us in Denver, are touching only a small part of the story, while everyone at home--with access to TV and the Web--will have a better overview than we have. In fact, being in the hall is often the worst place to understand how the story is "playing out" with voters, which is the only thing that truly counts.
So why are we even here? Ostensibly, we learn lots of new information about the campaign; it's a one-stop shop for political reporting. But the truth is, thousands of reporters, politicians and activists, come to these events for the same reason that doctors go to medical conferences, lawyers go to legal conventions, and type-2 widget nut-and-bolt wholesalers never miss the National Association of Type-2 Widget Nut-and-Bolt Wholesalers confab.
This event is more than a televised coronation, it's a trade show for the rapidly expanding political-journalistic industrial complex. It's a monster schmoozefest for an industry, which happens to be more public than most, but doesn't differ radically from those that gather in any one of the multitude of convention centers across the country.
Like conventioneers everywhere else, those here will learn about their industry, greet old friends, complain about the elevators in their hotels, look for the most fun parties to attend and try to remember to call their spouses back home. But because they only happen once every four years instead of annually, national political conventions are more special. A former congressman told me that attending conventions was the most enjoyable part of his years in the House. He could be speaking for any former member of any trade association, remembering the good times, like when "Stan and Susan" came out of the hotel room in St. Louis with lamp shades on their heads.
Except for one thing. We've been reminded in recent years that the stakes in politics are high. We've learned the hard way that for all the silliness and hypocrisy, it matters who the next president will be, and so it matters which candidate will get the most bounce out of his convention that he needs to win. Even a blinkered reporter fated to capture only a tiny portion of a convention can see that.