Our Opinion: Despite absence, Missourians loom large at conventions

Once the epitome of political suspense, presidential nominating conventions have descended into banality and boredom.

Conflict has yielded to contrivance and spontaneity to orchestration.

The conventions, like the campaigns, have become scripted and lifeless.

In the absence of friction and emotion, organizers engage the party faithful to participate in a massive, political pep rally for the predetermined nominee.

Perhaps the greatest speculation surrounding the Republican National Convention — which begins Monday in Tampa, Fla. — is whether an uninvited guest, Tropical Storm Isaac, will crash the party.

Adding to the GOP drama is whether presumptive nominee Mitt Romney can turn the spotlight back on Democratic President Barack Obama’s inability to jump-start employment and the economy.

Romney’s economic emphasis was derailed recently by a widespread controversy that centered on abortion.

The switch was thrown by Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who referenced what he called “legitimate rape” in comments during his U.S. Senate campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Akin rebuffed calls from a number of prominent Republicans — including Romney — to withdraw from the race.

His continued presence likely will serve as a lighting rod, from which the GOP will try to distance itself.

Conversely, Democrats will attempt to exploit the issue when they gather the following week in Charlotte, N.C.

Featured speakers at their convention include a number of women, including Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student characterized as a “slut” by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, another lightning rod from Missouri.

In the aftermath of his comments, Limbaugh’s induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians created considerable discord.

If the national gatherings this year transcend from ennui to excitement, the roots of convention contention may trace directly to the Show-Me State.

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