Reince Priebus has announced the dates for the 2016 Republican National Convention, to be held in Cleveland, Ohio. As expected, the dates will be earlier than in the last few election cycles, a move which provides a number of potential benefits to the eventual GOP presidential candidate. Rather than late August or early September, the big shindig will be held from July 18th through 21st. Personally, I’d been hoping for a late June event, a possibility which had been under discussion all year. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to work for one reason… LeBron James.
Cleveland was chosen over Dallas last year, in part because of its willingness to hold a convention earlier in the summer. Republicans held their 2012 convention in late August in Tampa, Fla. The party’s 2008 convention fell in early September.
A late June start had been considered for 2016. But the Republican National Committee’s selection of Cleveland last July came days before NBA star LeBron James announced that he was returning home to Ohio.
James’ Cavaliers play their games at Quicken Loans Arena, which will be the main site for convention programming. His return increased the probability of Cleveland playoff basketball into June — a prospect that made the arena’s pre-convention availability to Republican planners and Secret Service uncertain.
This decision was always a combination of what was good for the nominee and what was good for Cleveland. The advantages for the GOP’s presidential hopeful were fairly obvious. Anything that cuts the endless cycle of Republican in-fighting down a bit sooner and allows the party to move forward with a single standard bearer against the Democrat is a winner. This will be especially true if Hillary runs and essentially dusts the entire field right out of the gate. Another long summer of GOP circular firing squad highlight reels while Clinton takes aim at whichever Republican seems to be in the lead doesn’t help anyone. Also, donations to candidates are broken up into two pools, one for the primary and one for the general election. Until you have an actual nominee, those general election funds remain locked up, so this opens the gates more than a month earlier.
As far as the question of “what’s good for Cleveland” goes, that’s a bit murkier. Cities still seem to be lining up to host these massive spectacles (which is great for the parties) but it’s becoming less and less clear why. In the old days, the Republicans or Democrats would roll into town, spread out all over the place, hit all the bars, restaurants and – let’s admit it – strip clubs, and generally rain down a ton of cash on local businesses. That’s changed in the last decade or two. The Tampa Convention in 2012 brought a lot of complaints from the city that the big party actually wound up hurting business. A massive green zone was established around the convention site for security reasons, and once people got in there for the day’s events they rarely left again until it was all over because standing in the security lines was intolerable. The green zone essentially split the city in half, also, and disrupted the flow of traffic badly. There doesn’t seem to be the same benefit to the host city which we once saw.
But who knows? Cleveland is a bit less compact than Tampa, Dallas or New York so the flow may be better. If they can get the security more effectively organized then the conventioneers might be more likely to get out and about. And if nothing else, we shouldn’t be causing any inconvenience to LeBron James.