Could the Democrats hold a convention in July and not nominate a presidential candidate? That's the odd possibility raised by a suggestion floated late last week to delay John Kerry's official acceptance of the nomination until five weeks after the convention. The idea--which a Democratic source says was dreamed up by the Howard Dean campaign back when Dean thought he would be the nominee--is meant to avoid putting Kerry at a spending disadvantage to President Bush. Under campaign-finance rules, each candidate, upon receiving the nomination, gets a $75 million check from the government that has to last through the election. Because the Republican Convention is held five weeks after the Democrats', Bush would have five extra weeks to raise and spend before he's subject to the limits.
But the unconventional idea carries risks. For a candidate who is working to escape an image of waffling and splitting hairs, it could be dicey to deprive his party's convention of the only real thing it does: confer the nomination. Though the conventions lost their last shred of suspense long ago, the candidate's acceptance speech is a high point, a chance to outline one's vision to a national TV audience and fuel the usual "convention bounce" in the polls. The TV networks, which have already reduced their coverage of the largely ceremonial gatherings, might cut back even more. Would the extra five weeks to spend--a period when most Americans will be focused on their vacations and the Olympics--be worth the cost? "We're weeks, if not months, away from having a final decision on this," says Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "We're nowhere near figuring this out."
--By Karen Tumulty