Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus stressed Monday that the selection of the party’s 2016 national convention site will be driven predominantly by business factors rather than political concerns.
Eight cities from six states are vying for the bid to throw the convention, scheduled tentatively for late June or mid-July 2016. They are: Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio, along with Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., Las Vegas and Phoenix.
But more important than swing state political calculations will be financial goals, security reinforcements, hotel accommodations and ease of transportation, Priebus relayed at a briefing with reporters at RNC headquarters.
“It’s a business decision,” he said. “After that, I would worry about whether being there helps our chances of winning that particular state.”
History shows the GOP shouldn’t count on reaping geographical political rewards from where they decide to drop the balloons. The party hasn’t carried the state it’s held its convention in since 1992, when Vice President George H.W. Bush won Texas. In 2012, after accepting the nomination in Tampa, Mitt Romney came close to breaking the streak, but fell 73,000 votes short of capturing Florida.
“There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between conventions and winning particular states. The DNC had their convention in Charlotte, right? Who won North Carolina? Mitt Romney,” Priebus noted, further downplaying the political implications.
But in 2012, Democrats’ choice of Charlotte, N.C., certainly was driven by politics. President Barack Obama’s re-election team had a special affinity for North Carolina after carrying it in 2008. It also didn’t hurt that it shared its northern border with swing state Virginia. Holding a convention in a red state was meant to symbolize a broader electoral map for Obama, although in the end, of course, it bore no fruit. It became the first time Democrats had lost the state they had held their convention in since 1988.
In a purely political context, the three cities from Ohio and Las Vegas would appear to be convention front-runners. Ohio is the foremost presidential battleground; Nevada has a growing Hispanic population that Republicans are desperate to attract.
But Priebus and site selection committee chairwoman Enid Mickelsen both tossed cold water on that supposition.
“You have to have a fundamental structure in place to make a convention work right. Both the committee and the bid cities are focusing the vast majority of their time on those business fundamentals. The party part will come from somebody else. We want to make that good business decision,” Mickelsen said.
That means drilling down on such details like how long it takes to ferry delegates from hotels to the site. Priebus recalled that those calculations are almost always revised once a city is infused with an additional 20,000 people and the Secret Service wields authority to close roads for a presumptive nominee. Suddenly, a swift 20-minute commute can become 40 or more.
If delegates are stuck on buses in traffic or the power goes out due to a surge that exceeds electrical capacity, those become troublesome stories that may potentially overshadow the nominee.
Priebus appeared open to attempting to leverage volunteer opportunities in a swing state like Ohio or Nevada, if a city in one of those states ultimately is chosen. But that political angle certainly would not trump financial and logistical priorities, he said.
On Monday, representatives from five of the eight cities were in Washington to make their pitches to RNC members in closed-door meetings. A final decision on the site is expected to be voted on in late summer or early fall.