Where Will the Democrats Go in 2016? The Wire Examines the Final Five Cities

Five cities – New York, Philadelphia, Columbus, Phoenix and Birmingham – are vying to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016. New York City showed off Brooklyn to DNC officials Monday.

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Officials from the Democratic National Committee are enjoying their second day in New York as they spend the summer visiting the five finalists to host their party's convention in 2016.

Will the party nominate its chosen successor to Barack Obama in the hipster haven of Brooklyn, ol' reliable Philadelphia, the swing state capital of Columbus, a midsummer cauldron in Phoenix, or the civil rights hotbed of Birmingham in the deep South?

The Wire breaks down the Democrats' choices:


The Bid: A national party convention would return to New York for the first time since Republicans re-nominated President George W. Bush in 2004, but this time it would come to Brooklyn. New York officials have rounded up a host committee of celebs and financiers pledging $100 million toward the effort.

Pro: For a generation of young urbanites, Brooklyn is the embodiment of hip and cool. From the chic cocktail bars of Williamsburg to packed Jay-Z concerts at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn's youthful image would be center stage. It could also be a homecoming for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination and help to blunt, at least symbolically, the G.O.P. attack that she represents the past. And the borough's long history as a melting pot of immigrants could play into one of the party's top campaign messages in 2016.

What is really important is Brooklyn represents the future. No place, no competitor represents the future like Brooklyn." – Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y).

Con: Democrats need more than young urbanites to keep hold of the White House, and for many Americans between the coasts, Brooklyn just represents a bunch of skinny ties and weird beards. Republicans would seize on the choice to hammer Democrats for a lurch to the left.

Transportation could also be a real issue in a city where the subway is a century old and where traffic snarls whenever the president comes to town. Because Brooklyn has only a fraction of the hotel rooms that would be needed, most of the nearly 20,000 D.N.C. attendees would need to commute over the river from Manhattan ... unless they want to chance it with Airbnb.


The Bid: The City of Brotherly Love hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, but despite an aggressive G.O.P. push, Democratic presidential candidates have won Pennsylvania every four years since then. The city said it has more than 30,000 hotel rooms at the ready, along with the Wells Fargo Center and downtown convention center available to host events.

Pro: Birthplace of the United States. The city's history as the cradle of American democracy is a handy trump card in any convention battle. Philadelphia also has done this before, having held multiple previous party conventions and other crowded undertakings annually. "Philadelphia knows how to host big events," reads a fact sheet provided by the mayor's office to The Wire. And while Democrats have prevailed in recent presidential elections, the state remains much more in play than either the reliably blue New York or the solidly red Alabama.

Con: It's been done. While experience is an advantage in the eyes of the logistics-minded D.N.C., Philadelphia's familiarity as a convention host could be a liability. Democrats have used their last two convention sites, Denver and Charlotte, to break out of the stodgier, big-city mold and generate excitement in areas where the party hopes to build its voter base. Phoenix, Columbus or Birmingham would be first-time hosts, while New York spiced up its bid by locating it in Brooklyn.


The Bid: After Cleveland snagged the Republican National Convention (and three days later, Lebron James), Columbus is looking to make the 2016 nominating galas an all-Ohio affair. It would make sense, given that the two party hopefuls seemed to spend every waking minute in the state in the waning days of the 2012 campaign.

Pro: Ohio has become the swingiest of swing states in the last decade, with the Buckeye State handing President George W. Bush his re-election over John Kerry in 2004 and then playing a central role in President Obama's two victories in 2008 and 2012 ( the latter much to the dismay of Karl Rove). For Democrats, siting the convention in Columbus could blunt any advantage Republicans get from having theirs in Cleveland.

Con: Quick, name something distinctive about Columbus.


We couldn't either, except for that it is the capital of Ohio and the home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.


The Bid: Phoenix is gunning for its first national party convention in the hopes that Democrats will continue their pattern of picking a red-leaning state that they hope to turn blue. The strategy succeeded with Denver in 2008, as Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Colorado, while it came up just a bit short in 2012 when Mitt Romney narrowly won North Carolina after Democrats held their convention in Charlotte. Democrats had hoped to make a stronger run in Arizona in 2012, but Romney won the state by 10 points.

Pro: Holding their convention in a border state would dovetail with the Democrats intention of using immigration as a cudgel against Republicans in 2016. Party strategists, along with the state's senior Republican senator, McCain, have argued that the House G.O.P.'s failure to pass immigration reform could doom the party's chances of regaining the White House, largely because the ever-increasing number of Hispanic voters in states like Arizona feel alienated by the G.O.P. The current border crisis may have changed the short-term calculus, but the larger demographic trends favor Democrats, and they could tell that story in Phoenix with an eye toward winning Arizona in November.

Con: The heat. It is 107 degrees in Phoenix on Monday, with a "dangerous heat index" and warnings to "limit outdoor exposure." And that's pretty much an average day in August, when the convention will likely be held. Republicans survived an August convention in Tampa in 2012, but at least that was a short drive away from the beach, unlike the landlocked Phoenix.


The Bid: As a small city in a deep red state, Birmingham's bid is decidedly a long shot, and city organizers might just be happy to have made it into the final five. To demonstrate its commitment, the city is putting up $250,000 for recruitment and another $5 million if it is selected.

Birmingham civil rights march/AP

Pro: In addition to being an absolute shocker, the selection of Birmingham would allow Democrats to pay tribute to its central role in the civil rights movement while putting the party's push for a new Voting Rights Act at the top of its campaign agenda. A Birmingham convention also would represent a bold move back into the deep South for a party that has hemorrhaged support there for decades. And it would offer a memorable swan song for the first African American president to take the stage in the city where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed.

Con: There would likely be real concerns about whether Birmingham is simply too small to host an event of this magnitude. It would be the smallest city to ever host a D.N.C. by far, and with a population of a little over 200,000, it is about a third the size of Denver and Boston, the smallest Democratic convention cities of the last several decades. The $5 million the city is proposing to put up pales in comparison to the $100 million that New York has already raised from a host committee.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.