Washington and Lee Mock Convention
|95% of the Student body|
Washington and Lee Mock Convention is a simulated presidential nominating convention and is held every four years, during the early stages of the U.S. Presidential Primary, at Washington and Lee University. Although Oberlin College has the distinction of having the oldest student-run mock political convention in the country, W&L's convention has the reputation for being the most accurate. It often receives gavel-to-gavel coverage on C-SPAN.
The convention simulates the nomination process for whichever party does not currently hold the presidency. Since its inception in 1908, the student body has been correct 20 out of 26 times, with only two incorrect predictions since 1948. Since 1948, they have never incorrectly predicted the Republican nominee for president.
The 2008 Mock Convention projected Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for that election year. The Mock Convention was mistaken, however, as Barack Obama was eventually elected as the nominee. The 2012 Mock Convention projected Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. In 2016, the Mock Convention projected Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee on the first ballot.
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In the spring of 1908, William Jennings Bryan, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential candidacy, announced a visit to Lexington, Virginia, arousing interest in Washington and Lee’s already political-minded campus. To capitalize on the furor, The Forum, W&L’s leading political organization at the time, organized a replica of the upcoming Democratic Convention. The event was an enormous success, owing to the highly political student body: according to the Lexington Gazette, “The young gentlemen entered into the meeting with the zest of seasoned politicians plus the enthusiasm of collegians”. After fierce (and occasionally chaotic) debate, the campus correctly predicted Bryan to be the 1908 Democratic nominee.
With the exception of the 1920 and 1944 elections, the Mock Convention has occurred every four years since the original 1908 election. The state delegations are known to go to great lengths for accuracy: the 1952 state chair for California, David Constine, developed a correspondence with California Governor Earl Warren, one of the leading candidates. As it rose in prominence, the convention gathered an impressive docket of speakers, including Harry S. Truman and former Vice President Alben Barkley, who died in the midst of a speech at the 1956 convention. In addition to the convention itself, W&L hosts a large number of formal and informal celebrations in honor of the Convention and its honored guests, including parades, parties, and balls. These events have seen some of the Convention’s most famous stories. In 1972, then-governor Jimmy Carter’s speech at Mock Con was missed by his own press secretary, who had been celebrating with a group of W&L students and alumni. Before his famous MTV appearance, Bill Clinton played an impromptu concert for students at an off-campus party for the 1988 Convention. By 1996, the Mock Convention was acknowledged by the Washington Post as “one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious mock conventions.”
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- Schwab, Nikki (17 January 2008). "At Mock Convention, Washington and Lee Students Showcase Their Uncanny Knack for Picking Presidential Candidates". US News and World Report.
- "Our Story: Accurately predicting the presidential nominee since 1908.".
- Schwab, Nikki (28 January 2008). "Clinton Wins Student Mock Convention". US News and World Report.
- Fandos, Nicholas (13 February 2016). "Donald Trump Will Be GOP Nominee, Students' Mock Convention Says". New York Times.