Thursday, August 17, 2006

The politics of picking a convention site

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

CQPolitics examines the politics that play into picking a host city for the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Picking a host city two years in advance of the 2008 presidential nominating conventions — a process in which both major parties are currently engaged — implies thinking ahead.

And that extends to considering the political backdrop that the host city would provide for a convention, said Brandon Rottinghaus, assistant professor of political science at University of Idaho. “Presidential politics is about the future, with the rhetoric about moving on and the next step,” said Rottinghaus, who studies the presidency and the presidential election process.
Sizing up the politics of the pick, Rottinghaus called Denver the “smart play” for the Democrats. Though the Mountain West region has strongly favored Republican presidential candidates in recent elections, Democrats and some independent analysts view demographic changes — including the growth in the Democratic-leaning Hispanic population — as providing greater opportunities for the Democrats to compete.

Specifically, Rottinghaus said the atmospherics of a Denver convention could help the Democrats pick up three states, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, in which they heavily competed in 2004, but where party nominee John Kerry ultimately lost to President Bush.“The growth of the Sunbelt — that’s where the voters are,” Rottinghaus said.

Denver boosters have integrated this concept into their pitch to the Democrats. “It’s a regional bid,” said Bill Mitchell, government affairs director at the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors bureau. “There’s a significant groundswell of support from the 13 Western states.” Mitchell added, “By choosing Denver, any party would show they’re willing to move the needle internally and think outside the box,” he said. “It would send a signal that the Democratic Party is trying to do something different.”

As I've been saying for a while.

Rottinghaus suggested that the Democrats have less to gain politically if they were to choose New York City. The city already is one of the party’s premier presidential voting strongholds, regularly giving its nominees 70 percent or more of its votes. And the Democrats might appear as though they were mimicking the Republicans, who went against type by choosing that city for the 2004 convention at which Bush was nominated for a second term.

I don't think the Democrats care that the GOP was there in 2004, but it's very clear that politically New York does absolutely nothing for the Democrats.

Rottinghaus said the viability of the bid by the Minnesota metropolis to hold the Democratic convention may hinge on the state’s key congressional races this fall: the open-seat contest for the Senate seat left open by retiring Democrat Mark Dayton, and the 6th Congressional District contest for the seat Republican Mark Kennedy left open to run for the Senate. Both races are rated by as tossups.

Rottinghaus said victories in both these elections — but only both — could enable state Democrats to pitch that they are successfully staving off a Republican effort to gain the upper hand in the politically competitive state. “The Democrats might say, ‘We’re hoping to reconnect with the voters who have turned away from us, so we’ll go to a state that’s been traditionally Democratic but has been more Republican over the last few years,’” Rottinghaus said.

I've seen similar things said about the Denver bid. But with a nationalized election coming up, its' hard to believe that the outcome of a specific race or two will have any real effect.

Rottinghaus believes Tampa-St. Petersburg or Cleveland are the best choices for the GOP.

Paul Eisenberg, editorial director at Fodor’s Travel, said logistics are most important because a convention can utterly change the complexion of the city it is being held in. New York City, because of its size and its longstanding facility for handling massive numbers of visitors, “has the best chance of absorbing that,” Eisenberg said.

New York, in fact, has hosted four national conventions in the past 30 years — the Democrats in 1976, 1980 and 1992 and the Republicans in 2004, all at Madison Square Garden — and is the city that is by far most familiar with the process. “New York City has proven time and again that we can execute complex, large-scale events flawlessly,” said Kevin Sheekey, the city’s deputy mayor for government affairs, in an e-mailed statement. “We have no doubt that we can raise the funds necessary to assist either party with expenses and ensure a successful event leading into the final weeks before Election Day.”

But Eisenberg said Denver is a manageable city that has the bonus of being close to the natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains, making it another feasible choice. Minneapolis-St. Paul has a quainter feel than all the other cities, Eisenberg said, and would be an interesting destination for the high-profile conventions. But, he added, the cities’ tourist infrastructure might have a hard time handling an invasion of 25,000 or so outsiders. “They’ll have the most difficult time absorbing the increase in population,” he said. “It doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious choice.”

Lots of interesting points, but in the end, it still leaves us with Denver and St. Paul as the front-runners.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that the "quaintness" of Minnesota is a huge plus. We like to make sure that everyone feels as though they are at home- we're even famous for our "Minnesota nice" attitude! But us being nice doesn't mean that we're "soft" either... we are definitely up to the challenge of hosting the convention!!!

Anonymous said...

I can't support Minnesota because I want our party to win the White House. It's time for some changes, and that means leaving the comfort of secure states politically and entering uncharted territory. Denver's the only city in this race that can deliver the kind of result where we've lacked for to many elections.

New York and Minneapolis are to much of the same Democratic Party that has lost so many elections that we ended up with the GOP running the world. Howard Dean set out to 360 our party in the post-2004 cycles. The fact is is that we can't keep going with the options that seam "nice" or "sufficient". It's got to be above and beyond politically to really deliver support and victories from liberals and blue dogs alike. The only city in this race with that knid of capability is Denver, Colorado.

The east coast is the old DNC. The DNC that flailed in the last 2 presidential races and lost out to the most idiodic conservatives in the last couple mid-terms. When we lost Tom in 2004, the only traditional guy that seamed to be trying to bring in some fresh air electorally, that was a wake-up call to our party.

Denverdan, Dan Slater, and the rest the folks here supporting Denver's bid headed that call. It's not to late to turn this show around. And step one after mid-terms is going to be a change of venue. We need a change of venue. And we need to get our political act together to make this work in 2008. I'm going with Howard Dean on this one; Go Denver.

Anonymous said...

You may forget that certain midwestern states went red (i.e., Iowa) last time and others were rather close (MN and WI). One of the first rules in politics is that you don't forget your base- and MN sure has a good, active base that could give the region some renewed energy. If the Dems forget about the midwest, they could risk losing some much needed electoral votes.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Go Denver.