GOP has few takers for 2020 convention

Cities across the country are turning down the opportunity to host the 2020 Republican National Convention, where President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump appears to confirm deal on Chinese firm ZTE Judge rejects Manafort's attempt to throw out some charges Dem: Trump’s policy of separating children, parents at border ‘would shock Jesus’ MORE is expected to be nominated for a second term.

The cities that have rejected hosting duties insist Trump and today’s divisive politics are not factors in their decisions. They instead cite high security costs and disruptions in the normal flow of business and traffic.

But Trump is almost certainly a factor in some cities’ decisions to opt out.

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“Most of the cities that have turned down the RNC are Democratic cities,” said Evan Siegfried, a New York-based Republican strategist.

“Their leaders do not want to suffer blowback with their residents for hosting Trump and neither do they want to have local business owners angry because protestors smashed their store windows.”

Any convention attracts protestors, but the interest and passion stirred up in the Trump era, breathlessly covered by cable news networks, is expected to attract throngs of presidential critics to a host city in 2020.

Adam Bruns, managing editor at Site Selection magazine, said any city hoping to host a mammoth event like a political convention would have to take security, protests and disruption into account.

“Unlike most corporate site selections, conventions bring armies of protestors — virtually a complete menu of side evens with their own security and traffic demands,” Bruns said.

Only three cities are even in the running to host the GOP in 2020 — and only one, Charlotte, N.C., is public and open about its interest.

Charlotte’s Democratic mayor, Vi Lyles, has met with Republican National Committee (RNC) officials and is working with North Carolina Republicans to woo the party to the city, which hosted President Obama’s re-nomination in 2012.

Duke Energy, which funded much of the 2012 Democratic convention, has signaled it will do the same for Republicans in 2020. Private fundraising efforts for a potential host committee are already underway, according to those with knowledge of the city’s bid.

Representatives from the Nevada GOP pitched the RNC’s site selection committee last week on Las Vegas, but city officials aren’t on board. A spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the city had declined to submit a bid. The authority was not aware of another bid submitted on Las Vegas’s behalf.

San Antonio, which had been interested in the process, has pulled out.

San Antonio’s city council last week voted against bidding on the convention. Mayor Ron Nirenberg cited the $40 million that Cleveland had to spend on security to host the GOP’s 2016 convention as a cause for concern.

Republicans with knowledge of the planning process said a total of seven cities expressed some interest in hosting the convention. But several of those cities pulled out of contention before completing their bids, citing conflicts of one form or another.

Nashville, Tenn., and Philadelphia, two other cities that were once part of the process, also pulled out.

Heather Middleton, a spokeswoman for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her city decided they could not make a convention work. Deana Gamble, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, said her city had no plans to reach out to the RNC.

Republicans say security concerns have more to do the difficulties of finding a host than any Trump effect.

Ron Kaufman, the longtime head of the RNC’s site selection committee, said cities became increasingly conscious of security costs after Homeland Security officials began designating political conventions as national security events, a decision made in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“They’re a little bit worried about costs and they’re a little bit worried about demonstrations,” Kaufman said. “It’s getting harder and harder to find venues that can be tied up for as long as it takes for a modern convention to take place. That’s a problem.”

Other cities say they cannot afford to block off venues where the convention would be held, usually a sporting arena that can hold tens of thousands of delegates, volunteers, media and VIPs. Parties typically ask cities to reserve those spaces for as long as six weeks before the convention begins, to accommodate construction and technology upgrades.

Kaufman said Cleveland’s experience is a selling point. While Cleveland shelled out tens of millions for security, a post-convention analysis found the convention led to a $185 million economic windfall for the city.

Cassie Smedile, the RNC’s national press secretary, said the party would not comment on its site selection process. Kaufman said he hoped to present a recommendation to RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel at the party’s summer meeting in Nashville in August.

Kaufman said the number of cities bidding for the convention was not atypical of previous years.

Going back to the Reagan era, he said, Republicans considered an average of about three to four bids every four years. The six cities that bid on the convention in 2016, he said, was abnormally high.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been slower to begin its site selection process. The party has sent requests for proposals to eight cities — Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Denver; Houston; Miami Beach, Fla.; Milwaukee, New York and San Francisco. Michael Tyler, a DNC spokesman, said the party expects its selection process to take a year.