MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Democrats aren’t close to announcing a 2024 convention city. Republicans are already talking about 2028.
The Republican National Committee intends to begin selecting its presidential convention host cities six years in advance, a departure from tradition that GOP officials say is crucial for the party to have a wider selection of potential locations.
The RNC on Thursday unanimously authorized the current site selection committee to choose both the 2024 and 2028 convention locations, following approval the day before by the party’s rules committee.
The GOP will likely announce the selection of two convention cities in the coming months — its 2024 presidential convention site, and later, perhaps in January, its choice for the 2028 convention.
The next announcement after that would come in 2026 for the 2032 convention.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel called the change “a smart business decision” in a statement to POLITICO.
“Today marks an historic step in the convention process, putting our Party and our candidates in a stronger position for decades to come,” McDaniel said.
The RNC met this week in Memphis for its spring training and to pass a series of party rules changes. While most of the other changes were introduced at the RNC’s February meeting in Salt Lake City — including rules on binding delegates and presidential debates — a change in the convention selection process was first discussed with members during a Wednesday breakfast.
But the idea of announcing a convention city six years in advance has been brewing for months. When the site selection committee began talking with prospective 2024 host cities in September, they kept hearing the same response: “We’re already booked.”
“We realized the NFL Super Bowl, or the NBA All-Star game or the NRA convention or NCAA tournaments, those get booked out six, eight, 10 and even 12 to 15 years in advance,” said Anne Hathaway, chair of the RNC’s site selection committee and national committee member from Indiana. “What happens is we go two years out and there are a very finite number of cities who are available, because they’ve already booked conventions.”
Orlando, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix were among the cities that told the RNC this fall the 2024 dates in question wouldn’t work for them. The party hasn’t yet publicly announced what dates its 2024 convention will take place.
Presidential convention sites and the stifling security perimeter around them tend to tie up the event spaces involved for weeks as preparations take place, a time commitment that has forced cities to remove themselves from consideration because of other events already scheduled around the same time.
“We’ve got to have more time,” said Jim Dicke, a GOP national committee member from Ohio and a member of the site selection committee. “It’s not just a basketball game. And it’s not just one week — everything the Secret Service has to do, everything we have to do — we need a city for several weeks.”
The buildout process for the RNC’s convention space takes four to six weeks, while teardown requires another week to two weeks.
Ron Kaufman, another member of the site selection team and a national committee member from Massachusetts, called the rule change “a business decision, not a political decision.”
For 2024, the party has narrowed down its convention location options to Milwaukee or Nashville and is negotiating potential contract language with both. There’s concern among some officials that delaying the choice until August, when the next RNC meeting is scheduled, is unfair to the two finalist cities — it’s a long time to wait in uncertainty about whether they’re hosting the convention in 2024.
Had it not been for the pandemic-related slowdown in convention booking, a booming tourist destination like Nashville likely wouldn’t have been an option for the GOP in 2024.
Three members of the site selection committee said it’s possible McDaniel will call a special meeting prior to the August gathering in order to finalize the 2024 city selection, a process that involves a vote of the 168 members. That meeting, if called, would likely take place in May or June.
The new language in the GOP’s rules allows the RNC’s site selection committee to recommend a convention city up to seven years ahead of the convention, according to a copy of the rule obtained by POLITICO.
After the RNC votes on its 2024 convention city, the party will briefly open bidding this year for 2028 host cities. Hathaway said the site selection committee would then likely conduct any additional city visits and decide by the end of the year which city to recommend for a vote by the full body.
A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee said Wednesday there were no updates to provide on the party’s 2024 convention city selection process, which appears to be far behind the GOP’s progress. The Democratic Party has yet to announce any finalist cities.