The GOP weighs its choice of convention

In Milwaukee, one of two cities vying to host the Republican presidential convention in 2024, Democrats were pilloried by would-be visitors after predawn election results handed Wisconsin to Joe Biden during the 2020 White House race. Rival Nashville, Tennessee, is led by a mayor whose Democrat brother was effectively recut of his seat in Congress by the Republicans.

It’s safe to say that these two Democratic strongholds have mixed feelings about landing the GOP convention. Hosting the assembly once every four years is an immediate jolt of expense, plus a few days of invaluable national exposure. But it also means rolling out a welcome mat for bitter political enemies.

“Some people don’t want that to happen,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, a Democrat. “Some people are holding their noses about bringing this into Wisconsin. But if you put the politics aside, that’s how we’re going to get our economy moving again in southeast Wisconsin.”

The cities presented their final arguments to the Republican National Committee in Washington last week and a final decision is expected soon. That may hinge on whether Republicans see more value in the honky-tonk-infused branding that Nashville offers as a way to connect with white working-class voters likely to be at the center of the election. generals of 2024 — or the chance to bet a contender in Wisconsin, a perennial presidential state that has its fair share of those voters on the line.

Wisconsin could determine who wins in 2024, while Tennessee hasn’t endorsed a Democrat for president since 1996. In the convention contest, history would seem to favor Milwaukee. For two decades, Republicans have placed their nominating convention in swing states – North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.

Former President Donald beat Biden by 23 percentage points in Tennessee, while Biden won Nashville by 32 points. But state GOP Chairman Scott Golden said picking Nashville would allow Republicans to highlight a GOP state that has continued to grow even during the pandemic, while attributing successes to favorable fiscal policies. businesses, including the absence of personal income tax.

Backers also say Music City is a more attractive getaway for attendees. The arena and convention center are one block from downtown. The Country Music Hall of Fame is across the street. The arena dumps attendees into the famous strip of neon-lit bars, with live music playing almost all hours. Hot chicken and cookies are never far away.

New hotels change the skyline of the city center and its surroundings. Golden said convention attendees could be more concentrated downtown, minimizing long bus rides and remote accommodations from previous conventions and increasing branding opportunity.

“It’s a really, really good account of America,” Golden said. “Obviously it doesn’t hurt that the country music world is also centered there.”

Wisconsin counters that the 2024 rally, much like the last three Republican conventions, should be in a crucial swing state. Boosters are playing the opportunity, with Democrats like Crowley joining Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Reince Priebus – a former Trump White House chief of staff and former RNC chief – making the move.

Milwaukee is also shaping up to be turnkey thanks to its work to clinch the Democrats’ convention in 2020, though that’s mostly ended in line due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Wisconsin’s polarized politics are evident even amid the bipartisan push.

Trump fought unsuccessfully to disqualify thousands of voters in Milwaukee in 2020, mischaracterizing late returns driven by high absentee turnout as fraud.

The city’s top election official, Claire Woodall-Vogg, tweeted in mid-March that if Milwaukee got the convention, she would work remotely that week “lest she be hanged in the town square like some threatened him”. Three days after posting this message, she deleted her Twitter account.

Woodall-Vogg told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his tweet was “a poor attempt at dark humor considering I’m getting death threats fueled by the 2020 presidential election.” Like other embattled Democrats, she said she would welcome the convention for its positive economic impact.

“It’s a polarizing convention,” said Democratic Senator Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee. “Anytime Donald Trump is in the party, it will make for a very polarizing type of convention.”

Peggy Williams-Smith, who as head of the city’s tourism office helped lead the city’s bid, said the convention should focus on the economic impact for the city, state and region. region.

“To me, it’s not red or blue, it’s green,” Williams-Smith said.

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. issued the same memo, saying her job is to book conventions “without bias,” and pointing out that she also bid for the Democratic convention, both at the request of GOP Governor Bill Lee.

Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat, saw Republicans split the city into three in redistricting this year, a move aimed at improving their chances of flipping a Democratic congressional seat and which pushed Cooper’s brother, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, not to be re-elected. .

John Cooper told The Associated Press there was “a lot of homework” to do regarding hotel rooms and security issues. He said the RNC was probably “a bit shocked by the stickers” over the cost of Nashville hotels. He promised that “we are not going to expect our hospitality industry to suffer a loss for having this”.

Cooper said there was a “different burden” in having all convention facilities downtown. He said Nashville police need to “feel really good about this for the enforcement to go further.”

Some Nashville Democrats say it’s not worth it, politically or practically.

State Representative John Ray Clemmons worries that local government will incur costs and have to close sections of a city that will still attract visitors. Politics doesn’t make sense either, he says.

“It’s a beautiful, growing and welcoming city,” Clemmons said. “And our city represents everything they oppose.”

As to whether the convention location will give Republicans a boost, political science professor David Schultz of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, isn’t convinced. He studied convention venues from World War II and found no evidence to support an effect on race outcome.

“There’s this popular political wisdom that putting a convention in a state will kind of swing the state from Democrat to Republican or vice versa, or really energize the base in some way,” said Schultz. “Basically, it doesn’t work.”

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