In a pick that melds political calculations and historical resonance, the Democratic Party on Thursday announced that it had selected Philadelphia as the site of its 2016 national convention.
One of three finalists to host the convention, Philadelphia edged Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio, for the honor. In a statement, party officials pointed to the city’s status as a cradle of American democracy as well as the logistical infrastructure to pull off a massive event in which thousands converge to celebrate the official nomination of the party’s presidential candidate.
“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. A contract with the city to host the event was signed Thursday morning.
Party officials calculated that staging the event in Philadelphia could give Democrats a boost in a vital state that Republicans are hoping to contest in 2016. Pennsylvania is more blue than purple: Barack Obama won it twice, as did defeated nominees John Kerry and Al Gore. But with 20 electoral votes, the Keystone State is a battleground the party cannot afford to lose. And it is filled with the white middle-class voters that form a cornerstone of Democratic nomination front runner Hillary Clinton’s coalition. Democrats believe that hosting the convention in the Philadelphia media market will help showcase their message to such voters.
A walkable city with mass transit and a plethora of hotel rooms, the City of Brotherly Love boasts the amenities needed to absorb the influx of visitors. “The only three factors that we considered when deciding which was the strongest city to host our convention were logistics, security and resources,” Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Extraneous issues were not a factor, whatsoever.” Yet Philadelphia lacked the potential drawbacks of its competitors.
As the capital of the vital swing state of Ohio, Columbus was an appealing option to party officials. But as the smallest city among the finalists, there were concerns about whether it had the hotels to host the event, as well as whether the Republicans’ decision to hold their 2016 convention in Cleveland would sap the state’s finite supply of cash.
A lack of accommodations in the immediate vicinity was also a concern about Brooklyn. One plan relied on transporting guests from their hotel rooms in Manhattan to the convention at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center via ferry, which seemed a sure logistical nightmare. And in recent months, says a Democrat familiar with the process, the party’s selection committee grew increasingly concerned about the tension between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police force. Selecting New York as the site of the convention would have trained a spotlight on de Blasio, a controversial liberal, during a week when the party’s prime mission is to reach the swing voters who can shape the fate of elections.
The convention will take place the week of July 25, about a month earlier than four years ago. As in 2012, it will immediately follow the Republican convention in Cleveland. The back-to-back scheduling is designed to counter the bump in the polls that parties traditionally accrue from the nationally televised spectacle.
— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller