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June 25, 2014 5:47 PM It Doesn’t Matter Where Republicans Convene in 2016

By Jonathan Bernstein

Republicans announced today that Cleveland and Dallas are the finalists for hosting their 2016 nominating convention, and the reactions are appearing on Twitter. Some make sense — reporters and others who will have to attend are rooting for the city they would rather visit for a few summer days. But some Republicans are trying to think strategically: Which city would be best for winning the 2016 election?

That’s the wrong way to decide where to have the convention. There’s no evidence that parties gain anything in November in convention host states. Nor is there any reason to believe that whatever symbolism might be attached to any particular city matters.1

Party quadrennial conventions in the modern era have two functions. They are multiday informercials for the ticket and for the party, and they are national gatherings of the expanded party, just as any organization’s national convention allows people to get together in person. So the decision of where to hold this supremely political event should really come down only to technical details about hotel rooms, camera angles, meeting rooms, and other similarly mundane stuff. Including, yes, the weather.

When it comes down to it, a TV studio is just a TV studio, even if it’s an arena that seats thousands of extras … er, delegates. Expect both Republicans and Democrats to make their choices based on technical criteria, not politics. They’ll be correct to do so.

1 Although we can expect parties to avoid cities in which the setting would compete with whatever story the candidates want to tell. That’s why Las Vegas never had a chance, and it might be the reason Denver was ruled out this time around.

[Cross-posted at Bloomberg View]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.

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