Quick question: Can you recall a time in recent history where a national party convention host city’s history made a specific impact in the presidential race? The message? The convention itself?
It is awfully hard to answer yes.
I have attended the last two Republican conventions — 2012 in Tampa and in 2008 in St. Paul. Those were fine cities, but the conventions could have been in Milwaukee and Nashville and I’m not sure one thing would have been different.
I would propose that the Republican National Committee (RNC) should seriously consider holding its 2016 national convention in Detroit. To date, Las Vegas has prepared a bid, and Denver is reportedly preparing one also. Other possible cities are Kansas City, and possibly three Ohio cities — Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
Now, I am not naive. The process for selecting a host city for a national party convention takes years. Cities develop comprehensive plans, including tax incentives, hotel rooms, and transportation and infrastructure adjustments to try to win these major events to their areas. The committee must vote on the host city. Allowing Detroit to (perhaps secretly) bid on the convention would still allow the proper vetting and thoughtfully requisite time to consider such a bid.
Among the most significant hurdles to Detroit hosting, as one knowledgeable source pointed out to me, is that host cities must raise at least $60 million, which would be a very difficult challenge for Detroit at this time. Additionally, current law prohibits a national party committee such as the RNC from raising the funds if the city cannot.
That said, Detroit would be a powerful symbol as the Republican Party’s convention host city. Ronald Reagan was nominated there in 1980 and the parallel to that historic event and his economic message of “a rising tide lifts all boats” would also be powerful.
I can think of several reasons why Detroit would make an excellent host city in 2016:
First, no city in America better symbolizes the ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats than Detroit, which is currently filing for bankruptcy. The city has been under one-party Democratic control since at least the 1970s, and what has resulted is big government, high taxes, a weak private-sector economy, suffocating regulation, corruption and stifled economic growth. Republicans believe that Democrats’ ideological views, were they to be enacted at the federal level, would take American in the same direction as Detroit. Showcasing the failures of the Democratic agenda in Detroit would be politically valuable in 2016.
Second, Republicans have been working to help Detroit reclaim free-market principles to spur economic growth and opportunity. RNC chairman Reince Preibus has opened a field office in Detroit. Recently Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, traveled to Detroit to launch his “economic freedom zones” legislative proposal, a speech he gave at the new Detroit office. Even the much-criticized Detroit News guest editorial, “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” written by 2012 GOP presidential nominee and former Gov. Mitt Romney, offered a specific plan to help get Motor City back on its feet. By completing a structured bankruptcy process, it could shed legacy costs and come back stronger, under a more sustainable financial model and without a costly and deeply unpopular taxpayer bailout.
Republicans don’t want to see Detroit fail. Indeed, it already has. They want to see Detroit succeed, and hosting the convention there would allow them to shine a spotlight on how their agenda will create economic growth and opportunity everywhere, even in places like Detroit.
Finally, after 2008 and 2012, the battleground state map for Republicans is not encouraging. In successfully winning re-election, President Obama amazingly won every battleground state that he won in 2008, except North Carolina. Republicans need to go on offense, expand the map, create opportunities and make Democrats play defense. Respected and experienced national Republican consultant Mike Murphy recently said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the GOP must make Michigan competitive again to have a chance to win national elections. A potentially competitive open seat U.S. Senate race there in 2014 offers a new opportunity to begin that important work, but nothing could help more than hosting the national convention in Detroit.
I don’t want another sterile GOP national convention. Detroit would shake things up, be instantly memorable and help shape the race for 2016 in an important and beneficial way.
Matt Mackowiak is executive director of the super PAC Fight For Tomorrow.