Is Jacksonville Ready to Host the GOP Convention with Ten Weeks to Prepare?

Then GOP nominee Donald Trump points at the gathered media at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 21, 2016. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Three GOP officials briefed on the plans told the Washington Post that the party has tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Fla., as the new host city for the Republican National Convention in August.

One big question for organizers will be securing enough hotel rooms. Back in 2005, when the city hosted the Super Bowl, three cruise ships docked in downtown to provide extra accommodations. Back in 2016, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he didn’t think the city was ready to host that event again, declaring, “the requirements now for hotel rooms and some of the other infrastructure amenities, we don’t have here, so let’s not kid ourselves.”

In a normal year, a political convention brings an influx of 50,000 visitors (including about 20,000 media, all looking for a story to tell), about 5,000 delegates, every major political figure in the party, and tons of high-level movers and shakers and celebrities, many of whom will have mini-motorcades and entourages and their own personal security details. The coronavirus might mean fewer visitors and media in attendance this year. The Post said that lower-level meetings might still occur in Charlotte.

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As I wrote last year, political-media types love to dissect the selection of host cities, with a lot of speculation about whether it gives a party a leg up in winning the host state, but there’s little evidence that the selection of a host city has any real impact on which candidate wins that state. It might help boost the enthusiasm among local party organizers and activists a bit on the margins.

Last cycle, the Republicans picked Cleveland and the Democrats picked Philadelphia, and Trump won both states. (Republicans won both Senate races in those states that year, too.) Four years earlier, the Democrats picked Charlotte, and the Republicans picked Tampa. Romney narrowly won North Carolina, Obama won Florida. Four years before that, Democrats picked Denver, Republicans picked Saint Paul; Obama won both Colorado and Minnesota. Four years before that, Republicans picked New York City, Democrats picked Boston. John Kerry won both New York and Massachusetts. In 2000, Republicans picked Philadelphia and Democrats picked Los Angeles, and Al Gore won both Pennsylvania and California.

There’s one other factor that Republicans will need to keep an eye on if they go ahead and move the event to Jacksonville: the weather. The Republicans had to cancel one night of festivities in Tampa in 2012 over concerns about Hurricane Isaac.

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