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Election 2012: Conventions unofficially start 2016 race

Although the 2016 presidential election is four years away, the conventions of the 2012 race are just the beginning. Conventions, by definition, are highly orchestrated partisan events put on to formally nominate each party's candidate for the presidency. Nevertheless, there is more going on than meets the eye. Conventions also serve to announce the official platform, energize a party's base, and bring together elite leaders from the party for high-profile speeches.

Another unofficial role that conventions can play is to introduce candidates for future races. Each party always chooses rising stars to deliver speeches, in hopes that they can rally support for the presidential candidate. But these conventions also present a unique opportunity for these politicians. Many are relatively unknown outside of their home state, and the convention becomes their opportunity to introduce themselves to a national television audience, as well as leaders in the party. More than 35 million people watched President Obama's acceptance speech, according to Nielsen ratings data. Presidential campaigns are obscenely expensive, so fundraising has to start early.

The rise of Barack Obama as a candidate can be traced back to his appearance at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston when John Kerry was the nominee. Obama was then an Illinois State Senator who was running for a seat in the US Senate. He was not well-known on a national scale. Obama delivered a rousing keynote speech that was partly autobiographical and talked about his personal story of having an African father and a white mother. The ideas of unity and hope were central to the speech, which were also important in his general campaign.

The speech instantly catapulted Obama to the national spotlight, among Democratic leaders and the general public. Media pundits and other politicians hailed the speech as one of the best keynote addresses of any convention, and some said it may have even outshined Kerry. Obama was no longer just a little-known state senator. The positive media attention helped Obama lay the groundwork for a successful run for the presidency in 2008.

The 2012 conventions were also filled with promising speeches from rising stars within the parties. It will, of course, depend on the results of the election in November, but that does not stop speculation. Here is a look at a few of them:

  • Julian Castro: Castro, the current mayor of San Antonio, Texas, made history as the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic Convention. His speech was well-received among Democrats for his attacks on Mitt Romney as well as the theme of immigration.
  • Marco Rubio:  Rubio is the current Republican senator from Florida, and was chosen to introduce Mitt Romney at the Republican convention. His eloquent speech told the story of his parents immigrating from Cuba and working long hours to ensure that their kids could become successful. He also discussed American exceptionalism and the problem with big government. Many have been calling Rubio a rising star and the future of the party. In a time when Republicans are fighting for the Latino vote as well as younger voters, Rubio's speech cemented his prominent role in the party.
  • Martin O'Malley: O'Malley is the current governor of Maryland and is the Democratic Convention speaker that has perhaps been making the most aggressive moves for 2016. He has been making the rounds on all major media outlets as a supporter for Obama, and has already formed a political action committee to raise money. In his speech, he made the case for Obama as president to help the economy.
  • Andrew Cuomo: Cuomo of New York is one of the most popular governors in the country. Although his speech wasn't as high-profile as other Democratic stars, it was a strong attack-filled speech that supported progressive Democratic policies of helping the poor and supporting the middle class. His public profile was lower then other contenders, but a 2016 run could be in his future.
  • Clint Eastwood's chair: Just kidding.

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Meghan is a member of the class of 2013 from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. She is a Political Science major and Faith Peace and Justice minor. She joined the Gavel her sophomore year and has been an editorial assistant, News Editor, and Managing Editor. She spent her junior spring semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain. She enjoys writing political stories and covering campus events for the Gavel.