Republicans will start arriving as early as July 8 to attend summer party meetings and “to get the lay of the land and a sense of Cleveland,” says Chris McNulty, director of community and political affairs for the convention. About a quarter of the Republican delegates will be in town the week before the opening gavel, he says. Much of the convention’s business is really conducted in advance, at the party’s quarterly meeting and the four convention committees.
Political conventions follow a structure that hasn’t changed much since the 1800s. Exact dates and plans will be announced close to opening day. Here’s a guide to what to expect, based on advance announcements and past conventions.
Wednesday, July 13 to Saturday, July 16 (approximate)
Monday, July 11 to Friday, July 15 (approximate)
Convention Committee Meetings
The four convention committees meet to hash out the convention’s official agenda. If someone makes a long-shot attempt to derail Trump’s presumed nomination, it would flare up at the Credentials Committee, which votes on challenges to delegates’ right to be seated, and the Rules Committee, which recommends changes to the party’s convention rules. The Rules Committee may debate changes to the primary and caucus calendar for 2020, which could create battles between conservatives who prefer closed primaries and supporters of Trump, who did well in open primaries. Trump supporters may also battle social and fiscal conservatives in the Platform Committee, which drafts the party’s official stances on issues. The quieter Permanent Organization Committee names the convention’s officers.
Republican National Committee summer meeting
The 168 members of the Republican National Committee meet just before the convention, like they do four times per year. “It’ll be hyper-focused, of course, on the presidential election and the convention,” says McNulty, as well as “the status of House races and how the party’s finances are doing.”
Monday, July 18: Day One
Conventions usually start with a daytime session, where the delegates OK each other’s credentials, vote on the convention’s rules and approve the party platform. “There may be a bit of wrangling on the first day,” says Darrell Henry of the consulting firm GOP Convention Strategies, “but I think it will subside.” In the evening, the first convention speakers will address the delegates and TV viewers.
Tuesday, July 19: Day Two
Conventions typically meet from about 7 to 11 p.m., during television’s prime time, with each night’s speeches frequently sharing a theme. The nightly themes, speakers and newsworthy announcements are determined jointly by the RNC and the nominee, says McNulty.
Wednesday, July 20: Day Three
The convention’s third night often includes the formal vote for the presidential nominee — the traditional roll call of the states — and the vice presidential nominee’s speech.
Thursday, July 21: Day Four
The presidential nominee’s acceptance speech — the convention’s climatic moment — closes the convention.