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updated 7/15/2004 2:19:03 PM ET 2004-07-15T18:19:03

It may seem like conventions are just made-for-TV spectacles that allow each party to make headlines for a few days. That’s because they are.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Before the days of state primaries and caucuses, parties actually determined their nominee for President and Vice President at the convention.

Party leaders gathered to decide who they thought should represent the party, which sometimes took weeks!

In 1924, it took the Democrats 17 days and 103 rounds of balloting to finally agree on John Davis as their presidential nominee.

On the Republican side, the last close call came in 1976, when Gerald Ford beat out Ronald Reagan by just 117 votes!

Today, nominees on both sides are decided well before the conventions based on the number of delegates they collect during the primary season. 

Of course, TV spectacles that they are, MSNBC and I will be there to cover it.

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