The Washington Post today has a piece on the floor seating at the Republican National Convention. In their piece they ask whether states with good floor position at the convention are more likely to vote for Romney in November. I’m not sure this is a serious question, and it’s not clear that the Post is posing a serious question—I suppose news outlets have to fill their convention coverage somehow. The evidence they show (e.g. floor maps for 2012 and 2008) is pretty weak. However, it’s worth noting that there is some evidence about floor seating positions in legislatures affecting the votes of legislators. In the legislative case, there is a causal mechanism—the social interaction of legislators. In the party convention case, there is no logical causal mechanism between the location of a state delegation on the convention floor and the behavior of voters back home on Election Day.
The more interesting part of the Post’s piece, from a party politics perspective, is the allocation of seats to states that held early primaries. The Republican party had hinted that they would punish some states for holding early primaries (e.g., Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Arizona), and that “punishment” might come in the form of a “bad” floor location for the state delegations at the convention. Rather, these states received good floor positions, and the early primary sanction has come in the form of restricted voting rights for these delegations (according to the Post only half their votes count). There are a number of ways to interpret this sanction, but my gut tells me that the RNC didn’t really want to come down hard on these states and the rule only emphasizes that delegate voting at conventions is relatively meaningless.
As Seth has previous noted, conventions are about celebration, activating your base, following traditions, hype, and advertising—not so much about real decision making. The lack of a substantial consequence for the early primary states suggests that the GOP is not all that upset about the increased attention on their selection process that happens as a result of increasingly early primaries.