Search for 2024 convention sites ramps up in both parties
The jockeying to host the 2024 Republican and Democratic national conventions is in full swing.
Party officials have already begun to narrow down the list of potential host cities, with Republicans currently favoring Nashville, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, according to two people familiar with the planning process. The search for a convention site is being led by longtime GOP fundraiser Anne Hathaway.
Democrats, meanwhile, have made overtures to officials in a handful of cities, with Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Jaime Harrison giving select cities an October 2022 deadline to decide whether they want to bid on the 2024 convention. Among the cities contacted by Harrison is Milwaukee, which was slated to host the DNC’s 2020 gathering before the events were largely scrapped in favor of a virtual convention amid the coronavirus pandemic.
If Milwaukee is ultimately chosen to host either party’s convention, it would be the first city to host back-to-back national conventions since New York City hosted Democrats’ 1976 and 1980 national conventions.
Another finalist for the GOP convention, Nashville, is also pursuing a bid for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, a spokesperson for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp confirmed to The Hill.
For both parties, choosing where to hold their quadrennial national conventions has taken on outsized importance, giving party officials a clear way to signal their political priorities and where they plan to compete most aggressively.
“Conventions are a chance for you to focus the party on the conversation you think we ought to be having about our politics, so where you hold those conventions is really symbolic,” one Democrat who worked on past conventions said. “It’s a party-branding exercise.”
The last time either party held one of its conventions outside of a battleground state was in 2004, when Democrats gathered in Boston and Republicans met in New York City.
But there’s more to the process than political considerations. Party officials will also have to weigh factors like infrastructure, hotel space and airport locations, given the tens of thousands of political leaders, party members, activists and journalists that descend upon cities that host the national conventions.
“It’s going to come down to who can offer the best incentives,” one Republican operative said. “These things are expensive. You need to consider sponsorships, transportation, hotels — all kinds of things. There’s a lot more at play than, ‘Oh, it’s in a swing state, so let’s go there.’ ”
Still, political considerations are hard to ignore, especially for Republicans, who are hoping to make up lost ground in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2024. Former President Trump lost both of those states in 2020 after narrowly winning them in the 2016 presidential race.
“I think it’d be smart to do the convention in a swing state,” the Republican operative said. “You look at Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — well, Donald Trump lost both of those states last time around. I’m sure that’s being taken into consideration.”
While Wisconsin and Pennsylvania fall into that swing state column, Utah and Tennessee are both red states that haven’t voted for Democratic presidential candidates in decades.
Other cities that were previously in the running to host the 2024 GOP convention but have since been cut from the list include San Antonio, Houston and Las Vegas. Kansas City, Mo., withdrew its bid to host the Republican convention last month.
The 2024 conventions could mark a return to normal after both parties scrambled to reconfigure their national conventions in 2020 over the pandemic. Democrats drastically scaled back their plans in Milwaukee in favor of virtual events, while President Biden accepted the party’s nomination from his home in Delaware.
Republicans were slated to hold their 2020 convention in Charlotte, N.C., before the city ultimately called off the event because of COVID-19. While some official party business took place in Charlotte, the majority of the festivities were held virtually. Trump accepted the 2020 nomination from the White House.
The conventions are also expected to be a major economic boon to the eventual host cities, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to officials in potential host cities, Harrison, the DNC chair, talked up the economic benefits of the party’s conventions, noting that “past convention host cities have enjoyed an economic impact of approximately $150 million to $200 million.”
Harrison also suggested that the 2024 Democratic National Convention might not return to its traditional pre-pandemic format, telling city officials that the party is “open to exploring new approaches” and is “continuing to rethink the best way to hold our next convention as well.”
For Republicans, the next step will be to send party officials to tour each of the four potential host cities ahead of the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) annual winter meeting in February. That meeting is slated to take place in Salt Lake City, and representatives from the four finalist cities are expected to be in attendance.
Republicans could make a final decision on a 2024 convention site as early as the spring, Politico reported on Friday.
“The Republican National Committee is grateful for and appreciative of the overwhelming interest from cities across the country to host the 2024 Republican National Convention,” RNC chief of staff Richard Walters said. “We’ll continue the process, review bids, and communicate with potential hosts to hear more about what their cities have to offer.”
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