The last real convention, some might say, occurred in 1976 after Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan by only 100+ delegates. President Ford had come to the convention with more votes and delegates than Reagan, but neither had a majority and both wooed delegates throughout the convention. Some pundits even thought Reagan, with firmer adherents may upset the President. When all was said and done Ford came out on top. Reagan, maybe purposely, delivered a graceful and much more inspiring address than the awkward President, and Ford was denied a perfect convention from which to launch his candidacy.
This kind of drama was almost recreated in 1980 when Carter and Kennedy battled for the Democratic nomination. Though Carter went into the convention with the nomination sewn up, it was still a contentious affair with a sitting President again being opposed by members of his own party for nomination. The President’s tenuous grip on what should have been his base was epitomized by Kennedy’s very public refusal to shake Carter’s hand following Carters nomination.
Candidates can be disabled by their own selves at these conventions as well. Walter Mondale may have lost any real shot at besting President Reagan saying during his 1984 convention speech that he as President would indeed raise taxes. Bill Clinton’s long winded introduction for Michael Dukakis during the 88’ convention proved an embarrassment for the nascent Arkansas Governor.