The following is from the Aug. 18, 2008, edition of The Arizona Republic. SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson offered expert commentary for this story.

Will drama return to the political conventions?

By Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic

When the Republican National Convention convenes in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 1, what viewers won't see may be among the biggest stories.

Vice President Dick Cheney may not have any role. Several GOP senators facing re-election won't be there, either. And while President Bush will speak at the convention, John McCain, the party's presumptive presidential nominee, is not expected to be seen with him.

Airbrushing political blemishes has become common at conventions. Don't expect Democrats, for example, to dwell on the deep rifts within their ranks of who the nominee should be at their convention, which begins next week.

Over time, the heavily scripted four-day affairs have been drained of controversy and spontaneity, offering little news for the media and scarce drama for those watching on TV. . .

This year's presidential race, with its record-shattering fundraising and voter turnout and history-making candidates running against a troubled national backdrop, offers hope that the public will be more attentive.

Still, as in 2004, the networks plan to offer just five hours of coverage over four nights to each of the conventions. Experts say it is a reflection of the disappointing ratings and the predictable public displays.

"We are really quite close to rethinking the American political convention," said Cal Jillson, a political-science professor at Southern Methodist University. "We're on our way to a two-day convention."

Read the full story.

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