When the Republican National Committee announced in September 2006 that its Site Selection Committee had voted to recommend the Twin Cities to host the 2008 Republican National Convention, it continued an interesting trend in GOP party politics. For the fourth consecutive convention, the Republicans will convene on a state which voted Democratic in the previous presidential election cycle.
The 2008 convention, to be held in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center September 1-4, is based on an RNC committee decision that takes into account a variety of factors such as the “number and proximity of hotels, size of the arena and its capacity to hold the convention, transportation, security, media work space, convention office space, and ability to finance the operation.” (RNC press release, September 27, 2006)
No doubt all of this is true. However, everything being equal, are Republicans purposefully planting their flag on ‘enemy territory’ in order to make inroads in that state?
The trend began in 1996, when the GOP convention was held in San Diego. In the presidential election that year, Republican Bob Dole performed about as well in California as compared to incumbent President George H.W. Bush’s performance in 1992 (each losing by 13 points). In 2000, the national convention was held in Philadelphia, and the GOP gained 5.0 points in Pennsylvania from 1996. In 2004, the GOP convention was held in New York City, and President George W. Bush gained 6.7 points in New York State from his campaign there in 2000.
This selection trend is in contrast to where national Republican conventions were held in the previous few generations. From 1960 to 1992, 8 of the 9 presidential conventions were held in states that were carried by Republican presidential nominees in the previous election.
The Democratic Party, however, has taken a divergent path in recent years. Its last 4 national conventions have been held in states that have gone Democratic in the previous presidential election cycle (Boston, 2004; Los Angeles, 2000; Chicago, 1996; New York City, 1992). The 2008 Democratic Convention finalists appear to be Denver (which, if selected, would buck this trend) and New York City (which would continue it).
In the future, if the Democrats are serious about making inroads in the South as their Chairman Howard Dean proclaims, perhaps they should adopt the GOP strategy and consider descending on a city like Atlanta or Charlotte. It is true that many of the country’s major metropolitan areas happen to be in blue states, but there are still several large cities in red states to consider—should they ever put in bids (Houston, #4; Phoenix #6, San Antonio #7; Dallas #9; Indianapolis, #12; Jacksonville, #13; Columbus, #15).
As for 2008, will the GOP’s presence in St. Paul have a positive impact on the presidential vote in Minnesota overall for the Party as it did in Pennsylvania and New York in 2000 and 2004?