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Does the Presidential Convention Site Help a Candidate Win the Convention State?

June 8, 2020

You probably have read that Donald Trump has pulled the RNC Nomination Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, because the the Governor would not guarantee that social distancing would not be required.

The RNC is now scrambling to find another location within three months. They are currently surveying seven cities as for a replacement site. One suggestion that is rumored to appeal to Trump, is a series of traveling rally-type conventions in different cities.

How or where the location or locations occur, there will be certain requirements that conventions will need to make the decision. You would think that at the top of the list, is how important that state is to winning the election, including the host state.

Most observers believe the Party wants a swing state that could make an electoral college difference. A state like Florida, with 29 electoral votes that has since 2000, chosen two Republicans and two Democrats (2000 was a tie) with an average popular vote difference of 0.5%.

Florida is certainly in the mix, and Florida Governor DeSantis is playing cheer leader for the state, with Orlando and Jacksonville as the primary cities for the event.

There are, of course, several other states that could meet the RNC’s need for a state win in addition to hotel rooms, a large convention center and a national airport, etc.. But I have a question, does holding the convention in a state actually help win that state?

As I was writing this post on Sunday, I saw on ABC a brief segment featuring the founder of the FiveThirtyEight website Nate Silver commenting that he didn’t believe the convention location had an effect on whether the party candidate won that state. He used an recent example of a Democratic Convention where the nominee lost the state in the general election (I can’t remember what state but I’m sure he was correct).

To confirm his statement, I looked at past conventions for both the Republicans and Democrats held from 1860 on. A somewhat arbitrary start, but one that eliminates the early conventions that were mostly held in the north east where travel was more difficult.

I split the convention locations into two categories: Republican and Democratic. My initial analysis was to measure how many of the Convention states the party nominee won.

For Republican Conventions, the party nominee won 73% of their convention states. The Democrats not so well, winning with 55% of their convention states.

From 1960 on however, the Republican nominee won the convention state some 67% of the time. The Democrats, on the other hand, won 53% of their convention states. I don’t know what data or time frame Mr. Silver used for his analysis but it wasn’t these two periods.

Where the Republicans and Democrats held their conventions since 1960, hints at what state’s the Republicans and the Democrats consider important. Below is a chart of where the Republican conventions were held since 1960.

Column1
REPUBLICAN CONVENTIONS SINCE 1960
STATE# of CONVENTIONS
FLORIDA3
TEXAS2
ILLINOIS1
CALIFORNIA1
MISSOURI1
MICHIGAN1
LOUISIANA1
PENNSYLVANIA1
NEW YORK1
MINNESOTA1
OHIO1
CHART
2

As the chart shows, Republicans put 5 of their conventions in Florida and Texas, which have a total of 67 electoral college votes. The Republicans won two of the three Florida elections (barely lost 2012) and both the Texas presidential elections.

Now let’s look at the Democrats choice for conventions since 1960 below.

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTIONS SINCE 1960
STATE# of CONVENTIONS
FLORIDA3
TEXAS2
CALIFORNIA2
NEW YORK1
ILLINOIS1
MISSOURI1
MICHIGAN 1
NEW YORK1
 LOUISIANA 1
PENNSYLVANIA /OHIO/ MINNESOTA3

Like the Republicans, the Democrats put 5 of their conventions in Florida and Texas. Florida makes sense since 1992 they won 3 of the past 6 election cycles and lost the other three by less than 1%.

Texas, on the other hand, has been a safe Republican state since 1976. Perhaps the Democrats wanted to keep the Republicans from taking the state for granted. It didn’t work. Too long a long shot this year.

This year, the Democratic Convention was to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but may now be held “virtually.” Wisconsin was a good choice since it is a true battleground state that is presently leaning toward Biden. As for the virtual convention, it’s hard to get excited for an imaginary event. Success with virtual news conferences have been mixed at best.

The Republican Party are almost certain to hold a live, packed and boisterous convention. Good for TV and news coverage and of course, the Covid virus. A win-win so to speak.

My bet on where it will be held: Florida. I just looked up what “swing-state” means in the dictionary and it had Florida’s picture there…

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