So it’s now official: Republicans will hold their 2016 national convention from July 18-21 in Cleveland, ending an era when both parties appeared to be angling to have the latest convention possible. It’ll be the earliest national convention since the Democratic confab that nominated Bill Clinton in 1992, and the earliest Republican convention since you-know-who’s nomination in Detroit in 1980 (don’t imagine we won’t hear a lot about that!).
In announcing the dates, RNC chairman Reince Priebus seemed to suggest the main rationale for the relatively early convention was “access to crucial general election funds.” It’s not clear if he was talking about public matching funds that are only made available once a nominee has been chosen; that seems a bit anachronistic, since both major-party nominees rejected public funding in 2012 and there’s no particular reason to think they’ll accept them along with spending limits this time around. He could, alternatively, be talking about access to privately-raised hard money that are subject to separate primary and general-election contribution limits. Either way, in this post-Citizens United era, it sounds like a blast from 1996.
When it first arose the idea of an early GOP convention seemed linked to a push by the RNC to compress the entire nominating process. Indeed, the talk then was of a June convention, in conjunction with wrapping up the primaries in April or early May. But here’s why June didn’t work out, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
[T]he 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.
Hah! Can’t imagine the business of nominating The Next President of the United States would trump the NBA playoffs!
In any event, the early speculation has been that Democrats will go the other way and once again hold their convention in late August or early September, creating a large hiatus (filled partially by the Olympics) and also giving Ds a chance to stage-manage a “bounce.” They could even emulate the Republican gambit in 2008 of announcing the nominee’s running-mate well before the convention–say, the day after the GOP confab–to step on any GOP “bounce.” Either way, they’ll have plenty of time to think about it.