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Scene at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.
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Scene at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Scene at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.
Scene at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.
Go-go girl and delegates during the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.
Arizona politician and future U.S. Attorney General Richard Kleindienst (left) confers with Nebraska's Richard Herman during the 1964 GOP National Convention in San Francisco.
Ronald Reagan at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
Scene during the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
Not originally published in LIFE. During the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Martin Luther King Jr. leads a demonstration calling for a strong Civil Rights plank in the GOP campaign platform.
Scene during the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
Scene during the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
Scene at the 1956 Republican National Convention, San Francisco, California.
Left to right: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat, at the 1956 GOP National Convention, San Francisco, California.
Scene at the 1956 Republican National Convention, San Francisco.
Chairman of the Republican National Committee Arthur E. Summerfield on the telephone during the 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Control booth, 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Bertha Baur, a prominent figure at conventions for decades and a long-time member of the Republican National Committee, in an elephant hat at the 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Pennsylvania Governor John Fine (left) and Arthur Summerfield chat in private during the 1952 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
Republicans hold an informal conference in a kitchen during the 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Vice-presidential nominee Richard Nixon and his wife Pat talk with photographers during the 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Scene at the 1952 GOP National Convention in Chicago.
Scene at the 1948 GOP National Convention in Philadelphia.
Scene at the 1948 GOP National Convention in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania delegates to the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago pull cold beers from a tub of ice after a caucus meeting.
Delegates listen to Herbert Hoover during the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
A model wears a bathing suit in a fashion show at Ohio senator Robert Taft's headquarters during the 1940 GOP National Convention in Philadelphia.
A young Republican rests on a sofa in the Hotel Adelphi during the 1940 GOP National Convention in Philadelphia. ("Van" is Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, long considered a front-runner for the GOP nomination; instead, the Republicans nominated Indiana's Wendell Willkie, who lost the election to the Democratic incumbent, FDR.)
Scene at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida.
Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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LIFE's Best Convention Photos: The GOP

Feb 12, 2014

Time and again, LIFE photographers like Alfred Eisenstaedt, Bill Ray, Thomas McAvoy, Ed Clark, Gjon Mili and others found ways to capture — and to bring home to LIFE's millions of readers — the drama, tension and, occasionally, the humor inherent in big-time politics. And with the possible exception of election night, there's simply no more dramatic, tense or humorous time (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) to watch the strange, imperfect mechanism of representative democracy at work than during a national convention.

In recent years, much of the drama around conventions has been leached out of the proceedings altogether. The "presumptive" nominee has already left any and all rivals behind in the primaries, and by the time the convention rolls around it's usually all over except for the shouting. (And judging by some of the pictures here, nowadays even the shouting is less exciting than it used to be.) Nevertheless, we tune in every two years for whatever drama might be in store.

Here, LIFE.com presents a selection of LIFE's best pictures from the GOP's national conventions across several decades. More than a few famous GOP stalwarts are here -- Ike, Nixon, Goldwater, Thomas Dewey — as are other long-forgotten pols who were players in their day, and the delegates who, in the end, provide both parties' conventions with their real energy.

See LIFE's best photos from Democratic conventions.

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