Why the GOP gambled on Tampa

But apart from the threat of severe weather — which we should emphasize was pretty small — and the already-tough-to-handle heat, Tampa made a whole lot of sense as a host city.

It is the biggest swing area in the biggest swing state in the country. Florida is worth 29 electoral votes, and the two counties surrounding Tampa — Pinellas and Hillsborough — are two of just four counties in Florida that flipped from Republican to Democrat between the 2004 and 2008 presidential race. Each went between 53 and 54 percent for President Obama after favoring President Bush four years earlier.

Tampa is also at the west end of the all-important Interstate 4 corridor, which runs from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area up to Orlando, which swung significantly for Obama in 2008. The county south of Orlando, Osceola, was the third of four counties to flip Democratic four years ago, and the two media markets along the corridor reach close to half of the state’s voters.