Five cities vie to be host of Democratic Convention



WASHINGTON -- When the Democratic National Committee reported recently that it had narrowed its list of prospective host cities for the party's 1996 national convention to Los Angeles, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans and San Antonio, the psychological warfare began at once.

California party chairman Bill Press argued that the Democrats had to go to Los Angeles because President Clinton would need the Golden State to be re-elected. While it may be true that he will have to carry California, considering the fact that it will have about 20 percent of the electoral votes it will take to win, it doesn't necessarily follow that holding the convention in the state will deliver those votes to him.

Since major party presidential nominating conventions first were held -- by the National Republicans in Baltimore in 1831 -- there have been 80 of them. In 46, the nominee has gone on to win the electoral votes of the state in which the convention was held. In 34, he has lost that state. Since 1900, 27 nominees have won the state in which their convention was held and 21 have lost. And since 1948, 12 have carried their convention states and 12 have lost them.

The identity of the convention state has been particularly unimportant for the Democratic nominees. They have lost their convention state 23 times and won it only 17, compared with the Republican record of winning the convention state 29 times and losing it 11. Since 1948, Republicans have carried their convention state nine times and lost three; for the Democrats, it has been the opposite -- winning only three of 12.

At the same time, history does provide some incentive for winning the convention state. Since 1948, three of the five Democrats elected president did so -- Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (New Jersey), Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 (both New York). But John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Harry Truman in 1948 lost the states in which they were nominated (California for JFK and Pennsylvania for HST) and still were elected.

None of these statistics, however, is likely to stem the psychological warfare among the contending cities. Although no formal bids have been submitted, the early favorites are Los Angeles and Chicago, for fairly obvious reasons.

Los Angeles is after all the largest city in the largest state, and beyond that the home of many Democratic contributors among the Hollywood set to whom Clinton has become a favorite, with the feeling apparently reciprocated. A convention glitzed up by the presence of an array of movie and television stars -- and bankrolled to a degree by the entertainment industry -- could help hold a television audience that has not in recent years been as attentive to political conventions as in the past.

But the city and its hotels are spread all over the Los Angeles basin, and ground transportation can be a nightmare, with clogged freeways at almost any hour. Chicago is more centrally located for the thousands of delegates going to the convention, and has more than ample hotel space within easy distance of a new sports center being built on the city's west side.

The memory of the party's disastrous 1968 convention in Chicago still hangs over the city, but that was a quarter of a century ago and many in the party believe the time has come to wipe out that political stain with a return to a city that has undergone a rebirth of sorts since '68. Ironically, the mayor now is Richard M. Daley, eldest son of Mayor Richard J. Daley, under whose reign what many called police riots scarred that last previous Chicago convention.

Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver took a verbal poke at the Daley name recently in arguing against the choice of Chicago and in favor of his own city. But Daley has been a loyal Clinton hTC supporter at least since his 1992 nomination and associates say he will make a strong bid to get the convention, while recognizing he probably can't outbid Los Angeles in the money department. But he is, after all, a Democrat, and the new L.A. mayor, Richard Riordan, is a Republican, a fact that Daley isn't likely to let Clinton forget.

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