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News from the Votemaster

2016 Republican National Convention Will Be in Cleveland

Yesterday, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced that the GOP will hold its 2016 convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The selection of a site is a complicated process with many factors playing a role. First of all, a city has to want it and actually make a formal bid for it. With 50,000 politicians, journalists, and others expected to descend on the chosen city, it needs to have tens of thousands of hotel rooms available during the convention period. This eliminates East Cupcake and quite a few other would-be contenders. Another key factor that eliminates most cities right off the bat is the cost. The Republicans estimate that the cost for police, security, cleanup, and other items that are direct expenditures by the city government could reach nearly $70 million. The city as a whole will receive an injection of many times that in terms of what the attendees spend on hotels, restaurants, and other items, but that money does not go to the city government directly, although it might recoup part of the expenditure from hotel room and other taxes. Also in the mix is avoiding natural disasters, like the hurricane that wiped out the first day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012.

Originally, the list of serious bids consisted of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. From the beginning, Las Vegas was not really a serious candidate and was included only because Sheldon Adelson had suggested he was willing to foot the entire bill himself, although he would have no doubt recouped part of his investment if enough of the visitors gambled away large sums at his casinos. So while officially Vegas was on the list and selection committee members made pilgrimages there, it is doubtful that Priebus wanted to hold his convention in Sin City not only for the general bad reaction from the religious right, but also for the chance that somebody important might be caught with his pants down.

Cincinnati withdrew in the Spring for reasons relating to the arena and the Republicans dropped Phoenix (possibly because one of the committee members had been there in midsummer) and Columbus (which still left an Ohio city). So by May the four finalists were Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City.

At this point money and politics began to play a bigger role. Cleveland, Denver, and Kansas City (MO) are all in swing states, but Dallas clearly could raise the needed funding more easily than any of the others. After careful investigation of the remaining candidates and much lobbying, the finalists were Cleveland and Dallas. One serious disadvantage that Dallas had was competition from other events. In particular, if the Dallas Mavericks made the NBA playoffs, the amount of hotel space available in June might have become an issue, and Priebus really wanted to hold convention early to allow the wounds generated by an expected bitter primary season to heal well before election day. Dallas could not guarantee full availability of all its resources until mid-July. Cleveland was available from mid-June.

What probably also played a role is the message the selection brings to local voters. The Republicans don't have to convince anyone in Dallas, or even Texas, to vote for them. They do that on their own. Ohio, in contrast, is a must win state for them. No Republican who lost Ohio has ever won the White House.

Finally, at a Dallas convention, the party would probably have to showcase Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and he is a loose cannon who could say things on national television that would not go over well in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other critical states. With a Cleveland convention, they would have the mild-mannered and always-polite Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) as a major spokesman.

All these things considered, Cleveland won. It is a key swing state and is not prone to natural disasters, unless you count rivers catching fire to be a natural disaster. Whether holding a convention in a state means your party wins the state is problematical at best. The Democrats met in North Carolina in 2012 and the Republicans met in Florida. Both lost their convention states.

The Democrats have not made their choice yet. Their finalists are Birmingham, Columbus, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. It is very unlikely they will pick Cleveland now that the Republicans have snapped it up, but if they want to make a play for Ohio, Columbus is still an option. None of the others is really in a swing state, so they may have already concluded that holding a convention somewhere doesn't buy you many votes. In fact, it might even be counterproductive since the convention produces a major disturbance in the lives of anyone living near it.

Birmingham makes no sense for the Democrats since Alabama is a lost cause for them. Columbus is a real option, since it counters the Republicans attempt to win Ohio. Cleveland probably couldn't come up with another $70 million, so it is almost certainly out. New York is a perennial Democratic favorite, having hosted the DNC in 1992, 1980, and 1976. Philadelphia is also a serious option, most recently having hosted the DNC in 1948. Phoenix is a long shot, in part due to the weather, but if the Democrats decide to pursue a Western strategy and try to win Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and maybe even Arizona, it is a possibility. The Democratic National Committee does not plan to make a final decision until after the midterm elections.

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---The Votemaster
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