The Democratic National Committee will hold its 2012 nominating convention in one of four finalist cities, Chairman Tim Kaine has announced: St. Louis, Minneapolis, Charlotte, or Cleveland. Democrats will hold their convention the week of Labor Day (Sep. 3), following the Republican nominating convention in Tampa August 27. DNC personnel will visit each city, and a winner will be chosen.
Whichever city hosts the convention will see an influx of tens of thousands of delegates, politicos, journalists, activists, and TV cameras, and millions of dollars in revenue (Denver predicted its economy would see a $160 million boom before the DNC held its 2008 convention at the Pepsi Center).
So which city should Democrats choose? Below are some pros and cons to each site:
Charlotte, North Carolina: A politically aggressive choice. In 2008, Democrats greatly expanded their electoral map into the South, largely thanks to wins in North Carolina in Virginia. It was a big deal for the party, as Democrats won states outside of the Northeast and the West Coast that had gone Republican in the previous two cycles. North Carolina was one of the closest states in the presidential contest, as Obama edged McCain 50% to 49%, and, to top it off, Kay Hagan defeated incumbent Republican and all-around GOP establishment type Elizabeth Dole in the state's Senate race, handing her party a feel-good win after Dole came to embody everything not to like about Republican campaign tactics when she accused Kagan of taking "godless money" in a campaign ad.
Pros: Cement the expanded electoral map by turning North Carolina into a foothold, showcasing Obama's broad geographic appeal and Southern competitiveness. Boost Democratic morale throughout the South. Charlotte itself is a Democratic stronghold.
Cons: If incumbent Sen. Richard Burr wins his reelection race in 2010, NC might not look so good for Democrats in 2012, not that this is a great reason not to hold a convention there. Also, the Charlotte Bobcats are not very good.
St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri is the nation's traditional bellwether state, or at least it was until 2008. The Show Me State has voted for the presidential winner in all but two elections since 1904 (1956 and 2008 are the exceptions), and it was the closest state in the 2008 presidential race, as McCain defeated Obama by fewer than 4,000 votes, even as the state voted for Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. President Obama has made trips to St. Louis and the surrounding areas since his election, stumping for his economic agenda, and Missouri will likely play as a close swing state again in 2012. St. Louis City, meanwhile, is overwhelmingly Democratic--it's one of three counties in the state to consistently vote for Democrats in statewide elections.
Pros: A swing state that's home to a close campaign-trail ally of Obama in Sen. McCaskill. It's located in the politically competitive Midwest. The 2008 race was close, and a tiny convention bump could put Obama over the edge in 2012. Strong tradition of jazz and blues. T.S. Eliot and Chuck Berry both called it home. Albert Pujols. Nelly. [Full disclosure: I'm from St. Louis. I'm not listing that as a pro.]
Cons: Obama didn't win this state last time around, and outside of St. Louis, he doesn't have many fans. Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan doesn't appear to be embracing him ecstatically in this tough 2010 election cycle. The Rams are terrible (though possibly improving), and the convention would likely be held in the convention center adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams play. It will be hot in early September. Nelly.
Ohio is a perennial swing state, and winning it put Obama over the top in 2008. He soundly defeated McCain 52% to 47%, sealing up the presidency. Ohio is home to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland,
Republican Sen. Dick Lugar, and Sen. Evan Bayh, another Democratic campaign-trail ally of Obama's who was rumored to be the party's vice-presidential nominee before Joe Biden was announced as such (the Drudge Report actually ran a banner headline of an Obama/Bayh bumper sticker; Bayh, later voiced skepticism over health care reform).
* Republican Sen. George Voinovich and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Organized labor is strong in Ohio, and, as the Buckeye State controls 20 electoral votes, it figures as a key swing state for decades to come.
Pros: A more significant swing state, mathematically, than Missouri (11 electoral votes) and North Carolina (15). Organized labor will come out in full force. Opportunities to talk about the stimulus and economic recovery, as Ohio was hit hard by the recession. Cleveland rocks.
Cons: Obama won Ohio handily in 2008, meaning less growth potential. The economy will be part of the discussion, whether Obama likes it or not: if the employment rate continues to rise at its slow pace, or if we still haven't recovered in 2012, Ohio could be dangerous as a convention site. The Kent State shooting. The Browns, Bengals, and Indians.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: The site of the 2008 Republican convention, the Twin Cities probably trail the other candidates for the Democratic convention in 2012. Minnesota is the bluest of the states on this list, and it's the most supportive of Obama: in 2008, he defeated McCain 54% to 44% here. It's home to two Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (who defeated incumbent Republican Norm Coleman after a protracted recount process in 2008), but it's also home to a potential Republican presidential nominee: Republican governor Tim Pawlenty, who has been crisscrossing the country raising money and issuing endorsements in key GOP primary states.
Pros: It's the friendliest territory for Obama, based on the 2008 election results, providing maybe the best chance for a feel-good renomination celebration for the president. Having hosted the 2008 GOP convention, Minneapolis has proven its capacity for the event. If Pawlenty is the GOP nominee, it would give Obama a chance to stick it to the Republican governor in his home territory, sort of like how the Confederacy chose Richmond as its capitol, highlighting the fact that Pawlenty may not carry his own sate. The Minnesota Twins have built a steadily competitive franchise with small-market money, relying on scouting and prospects. The weather will be much, much better than in St. Louis or Charlotte. The people are very nice, if stoic.
Cons: If Pawlenty is the Republican nominee, Minneapolis could backfire on Democrats. He would return home to much fanfare, having gained a 5% bump in polls from his own nomination a few days prior. It could turn into an unwanted and risky showdown, and Pawlenty's home-state supporters would come out in force. If Pawlenty isn't the nominee, Minnesota is a less aggressive choice, given how it voted last time; there's less for Democrats to gain, other than a feel-good renomination party that looks good on TV. The North Stars moved to Dallas, to be replaced by the Wild. On Election Day, Minnesota will be a bleak wasteland that tests the human capacity for survival. Not that anyone will complain.
*Thanks to reader Ben Kulow for pointing out this error, and apologies to everyone else for making it. I had embarrassingly confused Ohio with Indiana, where Lugar and Bayh are from.