Romney, wrapping up a nomination that exposed rifts between his camp and conservatives, can use the convention to ease strains by offering plum speaking posts to anyone who might otherwise make trouble. But the objective of the modern convention—a chance to reach out to the middle of the electorate—means prime-time speaking roles for the most prominent agitators wouldn’t send the message Romney’s team wants. Snubbing a prominent conservative could risk inconvenient stories about the candidate’s perceived problems with his own party’s base.

Several insiders interviewed for this story said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will present a unique challenge to Romney’s team: Will they give her a prime spot to satisfy her fans, or reduce her role because of her polarizing nature?

“You want people to generate interest and passion,” said one Republican who has organized conventions before and who, like others, didn’t want to be named. “Sarah Palin goes to a very small segment, relatively speaking, of the Republican Party. And you’re trying to put together a rainbow coalition.” (Democrats faced a similar situation in 1992, when then-Gov. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania was denied a speaking role, he believed, because he opposes abortion rights.)