NEW ORLEANS — The last bastion of spontaneity is falling.
As political conventions over the last generation evolved from decision-making conclaves to elaborate television shows, and opportunities for delegates to act on their own one by one sloughed off, one bit of individualism stubbornly clung on like a vestigial tail: the roll call.
Lines like "Guam, where America's day begins" and "Florida, the Sunshine State," became fixtures of American politics. Last month's Democratic convention kept up that tradition, with notable bits of corny wisdom like Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford promoting her state as "the home of the Grand Canyon, the ideal site for the super-conducting super-collider," and the delegates from Texas hailing their state as the home of "16 million hard-working Texans and one tourist from Kennebunkport, Me."
But the roll call is one of the most heavily watched parts of the political convention, and Republican officials have decided that such a big audience was too good a forum to leave to chance. So when delegates arrive at the floor for the presidential roll call today, each delegation will have a pre-scripted paragraph to read, if the convention continues to go according to plan.
The state scripts "will be partly homespun" said Sam Skinner, a Chicago lawyer and chairman of the Illinois delegation. But they will be cleared in advance with Bush campaign officials to "make sure it's consistent with what they want."