What a week this has been for Cleveland! Lebron James is coming back, and Republicans have announced that they will hold their national convention in the city of Cleveland in 2016. The decision is not especially surprising. Ohio is the greatest of all swing-states, and whoever wins Ohio has won the presidency in every election in the last 50 years, a distinction that no other state can claim. In fact, Republicans have never won the White House without winning Ohio.
In recent years, there has been more calculus in choosing the convention city. In 2004, Republicans made a beeline to New York City to capitalize on post-9/11 leadership. In 2008, Democrats made a play for a state that voted Republican in the last two elections in Denver, Colorado; Republicans went for a historically Democratic state by choosing St. Paul, Minnesota. Ironically, in 2012, both parties held their convention in states they narrowly failed to carry, the Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Republicans in Tampa, Florida.
The logical question is: what city will the Democrats choose? A couple of ideas were non-starters. Chicago is a terrible idea; voters are getting Obama fatigue and getting a fresh start is vital to success in 2016. Also, I would advise against holding the convention in any city liable to get smacked by a hurricane in July or August, so the Carolinas and the Floridas are out. Visiting Las Vegas, whether or not ones does so in the context of a convention, is highly inadvisable. Of the cities that remain, here are my six favorite choices.
1. San Antonio, Texas: The key here is to think not in terms of November, 2016, but November, 2032. Texas is seen as the a state that is trending blue, demographically, although it will be some years until we see this play out in statewide elections. It already has more non-white minors than white minors, and in a few years, this will change the gravitational forces of politics in this deep-red state. It could also serve as a great platform if Hillary picks Julian Castro, who was mayor up until recently, as her running mate.
2. Phoenix, Arizona: We’ll never know for sure, but if anybody but John McCain was the nominee in 2008, Arizona could very well have been competitive for Obama. It is a highly polarized state with a highly polarizing governor, Jan Brewer, and subject to the same trends as Texas. If Democrats wanted to make a statement about where their party was heading and where their future success will be found, Phoenix is on the rise.
3. Cleveland, Ohio: Why not give Ohio voters a choice by having both conventions in the same city? Picking Cleveland suggests not unoriginality, but confidence that, if your ideas are juxtaposed next to Republicans, yours will prevail.
4. Columbus, Ohio: Another key city in the ultimate swing state. Columbus offers one tactical advantage that Cleveland does not: Ohio State University. If done correctly, the convention might consider offering tickets to young undergrad volunteers who are willing to knock on doors and hit the phones on the nominee’s behalf.
5. Brooklyn, NY: Assuming Hillary is the nominee, why not just put the convention in her home state? Brooklyn offers similar advantages to Columbus: it is loaded, not with college students, but hipsters in this rapidly gentrifying area, who could offer a broad base of netroots and grassroots support. The Barclays Center would be plenty big enough for the convention.
6. Madison, Wisconsin: Picking Wisconsin will allow them to throw brickbats at Governor Scott Walker or Congressman Paul Ryan, either of whom could conceivably run for president or wind up as running mate. Despite running as a free-market conservative, Walker has presided over some of the worst job creation records in the country and barely survived a recall vote. Ryan attracted attention as Romney’s running mate in 2012, but pollsters have made it clear: the more voters know about his hacking, slashing, supply-siding budgets, the less they like ‘em. Picking Madison sends a message, and helps secure a state that trends blue, but is still very much a swing state.