Democrats Narrow List Of Convention Finalists To Three Cities

Columbus, Philadelphia, or New York City (well, Brooklyn really)?

Democratic Convention Day Two

Democrats have narrowed their list of potential convention sites for 2016 to three:

The 2016 Democratic National Convention will take place in either New York City, Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, announced the finalist cities on Monday; Phoenix, Arizona, and Birmingham, Alabama, didn’t make the cut.

The decision on the winning city is expected early next year, and the convention itself will be held either the week of July 18, July 25 or Aug. 22, according to the committee.

New York City officials have proposed that the convention’s main venue be the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the home borough of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The city has hosted the national political conventions in the past, though not in Brooklyn.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is likely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and would be the presumed frontrunner if and when she declares her candidacy.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been reported as supportive of the Brooklyn bid. But people close to the couple say they are agnostic on the de Blasio administration’s plans, and that they see the merits of holding the convention in a swing state.

Among the issues with the convention being in New York City? It would immediately become about de Blasio, who is trying to become a national figure, according to the sources, as opposed to being focused mostly on the nominee.

Columbus is a growing city and the capital of a key swing state. But, because the Republicans are holding their convention in Cleveland in 2016, there have been questions about whether Ohio has a big enough donor base to raise the money for two such gatherings.

At a celebratory City Hall press conference on Monday, de Blasio sounded supremely confident about New York’s chances.

He noted that when the Republicans held their 2004 convention in New York it injected over a quarter-billion into the local economy. He said New York’s host committee has already received $10 million in pledges and will raise over $100 million to make the 2016 convention a success.

“It will be a shot in the arm that will be felt all over this city,” the mayor said.

Looking at this from the perspective of the idea that a party should pick its convention city with the hope of it influencing the outcome of the election in that state and, given the fact that Ohio will most assuredly be a swing state in 2016 while Pennsylvania and New York will most assuredly go for the Democratic nominee. However, there’s little actual evidence that the location of a national political convention has much influence in determining who wins the state that the convention that its held in. In 1980, for example, Republicans held their convention in Detroit while Democrats held theirs in New York City, and Ronald Reagan ended up winning both states for reasons that obviously had little to do with where the conventions where held. The same thing happened in 1984 when Republicans were in Dallas while Democrats were in San Francisco. Again, Reagan won both states for reasons that had nothing to do with the location of a convention, and in 1988 when Republicans were in Louisiana and Democrats were in Georgia. Democrats did manage to win New York, the site of their 1992 convention, and the GOP won Texas that year, but both parties were likely to win those states in any case. In 1996, Bill Clinton won Illinois, the site of the Democratic convention, and California, the site of the Republican convention. The same thing happened in 2000, with Al Gore winning both Pennsylvania, the site of the convention, the site of the Republican convention that year, and California, the site of the Republican in convention. It happened again in 2004 when John Kerry won both Massachusetts in Massachusetts and New York. Barack Obama did pull off a win in Colorado in 2008, but it’s not at all clear that this is attributable to the fact that the Democratic convention had been held in Denver that year. Instead, it is more likely true that it is a reflection of the  fact that the Centennial State had already been shifting purple in the years prior to 2008 and that Obama’s victory there was just a reflection of that. Locating the Republican convention in Minnesota in 2008, meanwhile, didn’t help the GOP win that state, which no Republican has one since Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide re-election victory. Finally, neither party won the state that they held their convention in during the 2012 cycle; Mitt Romney won North Carolina, the location of the Democratic convention, and Barack Obama won Florida, the location of the Republican convention. Looking at that 30 year history, then, it doesn’t seem like there’s any real connection between the location of a political convention and a party’s prospects in the election.

Of the three remaining cities, I’ve got to believe that New York is probably the most likely choice by now. In addition to the connection to the Clinton’s themselves, there’s the simple fact that it has the infrastructure and hotel space best suited to dealing with an event like this. Even if the event takes place at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn instead of Madison Square Garden, which has been the more traditional location for New York political convention, that area has already been built up sufficiently to handle large crowds and the city’s transportation system would be more than able to handle the crowds traveling from other parts of the city into Brooklyn on a regular basis. Given the time of year, there would obviously be some competition with Mets and Yankees games, along with the usual throngs of summer tourists and people coming to work every day, but New York can handle all of that far better than Philadelphia or Columbus could. It’s possible Democrats will decide to give the nod to the Keystone State, or to respond to the Republican Convention in Cleveland with one in Columbus, with the possibility of holding an outdoor event at Ohio Stadium on the last night, but I’m giving the edge to the Big Apple on this one.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? The only question is why to the parties still have convention. except to get some earned media. Maybe it is about time for the parties to put an end to the anachronistic practices of conventions.

  2. Pinky says:

    I’d assume Philly. They just picked up the governorship, and they’re going to be going after Toomey. Neither NY nor Ohio have a strong narrative for the party.

  3. CB says:

    Just pick Chicago already, and party like it’s 1968. Get it over with.

  4. DA says:

    The logistics are a mess for Brooklyn, with most of the delegates staying in Manhattan, far away from the convention site. Philly would run much more smoothly.

  5. Gustopher says:

    The Barclays Center in Brooklyn is hideous, and the result of massive overreach with eminent domain, as well as garden variety corruption. To fund it, the city took a huge swath of Brooklyn and turned it over to private developers, with the profit for that going to build the damned arena.

    Also, it was supposed to be designed by Frank Ghery, but he was fired from the project as soon as they got approval and the land. So, it wasn’t even a massively disgusting project that resulted in destroying a neighborhood, but gave us one interesting, beautiful building. It looks like a toilet bowl. It offends me based just on the architecture.

    Also, they destroyed my favorite bar, Freddy’s.

    I hope the Democratic Convention has nothing to do with that venue. Ohio is lovely, go to Ohio.

  6. mike shupp says:

    18 electoral votes — the Dems ought to go with Ohio.

    And also, it wouldn’t be all that terrible if the sort of people who go to Democratic conventions spent a little time looking around a Rustbelt state and trying to find some grounds for conversation with the natives. Maybe with practice they’d learn to say “jobs” just as easily as they can say “same sex marriage” and “drug legalization” and pick up a few more votes.