Feb 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Washington and Lee's 2020 mock convention: The 27th running of a century-old tradition

Washington and Lee University mock political convention

The view from the prompter. Photos: Mike Allen/Axios

I visited my alma mater — Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. — this week for a sneak peek at Saturday's 27th running of a 112-year tradition: The nation's best known mock political convention.

Why it matters: The students treasure their record for accuracy, despite having to make the pick early in the primary process: In 26 previous conventions, W&L has correctly predicted the out-of-party nominee 20 times (including the year I was Western regional chair, and Sen. Joe Biden was our keynoter).

  • Each state has a political research team that interviews superdelegates and works family contacts for insider buzz. This year, the students built a model that will spit out a prediction for all 435 congressional districts.
Every delegation designs its own shirts.

Almost every one of the 1,860 undergraduates has a role in the campus-wide party — whether you're a delegate or working security or selling memorabilia.

  • The convention kicks off with a parade through town. Davis White (W&L '03) tells me about a buddy whose job it was to follow the elephant and do cleanup — dressed as a clown. This year, of course, there were donkeys.

W&L students correctly forecast Donald Trump as the Republican nominee on Feb. 13, 2016 — long before it was obvious to their parents.

  • Trump called in to accept the nomination.

📷 Watch live. Roll call session begins 3 p.m. ET.

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