January 24, 2022 6:00am

Political Conventions in Music City?

Power Pollers say bring 'em

Photo of Bruce Dobie
Nashville, TN Correspondent

Power Poll members in Nashville think we stand a reasonably good shot at landing a national political convention. On balance, they think it would be a good thing for our city, and while they hope it would be Democrats coming here, they seem pretty open to either party.

Meanwhile, Power Poll members are NOT interested in renting out their homes to the delegation from Guam. Or Idaho. Or to anyone else for that matter. Many left comments at Power Poll asking that "Hell No" or something stronger be listed as an option.

Such were the latest results of the Nashville January Power Poll.

Here are the specific questions and answers, which will be followed with some context, including updates from Butch Spyridon, President/CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC).

Power Poll also ran a sponsored poll question from the Elliston Place Soda Shop, in which 436 Power Poll members voted. Elliston Place opted to make those results public. The results are as follows:

This was the lead paragraph in a story in The Hill last week. "The jockeying to host the 2024 Republican and Democratic national conventions is in full swing." As the story goes on to mention, Nashville is in the thick of it with Republicans, and we're at least communicating with Democrats.

Published reports (and interviews) indicate top host cities for Republicans are Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, and Nashville. As to Democrats, most seem to think Milwaukee is in top position, but Nashville is known to have begun the dance with Democratic Party officials.

Here's how it has shaken out so far.

According to Spyridon, Gov. Bill Lee's office got in touch with the NCVC and asked that it do two things. First, it asked that it submit a response to the Republican National Committee's Request for Proposal for hosting a convention. And second, the governor's office asked that it request an RFP from the Democratic National Committee. (For those keeping score, the RNC bid was submitted on Dec. 8. A request to the DNC for an RFP was sent on Nov. 2 and that RFP is expected sometime in mid-February.)

For those who know Spyridon, who has been around about as long as Tootsie's has served beer, his political antennae are finely attuned. And so, he takes great pains not to show preference for either party. Hear his woke-ness. "The NCVC's primary role is to book convention business for Nashville without bias... It's not appropriate for the NCVC to pick and choose which groups get to meet in Nashville."

Spyridon is not blinking with regard to our ability to host an affair as large and complex as a political convention. "We are as prepared and experienced as any of the cities who most recently hosted either convention." However, it is well known that in the past, Spyridon has never been wild about bidding on them. For one thing, they come with expense burdens that are extraordinary in the convention world. The private sector must subsidize some of the cost. The blocking of so many thousands of hotel rooms is logistically mind-boggling. Security is costly, hard, and a major issue.

Aside from whether we pass muster from an infrastructure and cost perspective, which we apparently will, there is an even more important issue on which party officials will be evaluating us. Typically, party officials locate their convention in a battleground state where they know a convention can move the dial their way. Think: free media. It's like picking your vice-president—it says a bit about who you are.

(SIDENOTE: In case you're interested, Democrats selected Denver in 2008, Charlotte in 2012, Philadelphia in 2016, and Milwaukee in 2020. Republicans picked St. Paul in 2008, Tampa Bay in 2012, Cleveland in 2016, and Charlotte in 2020.)

So, why would Democrats or Republicans come to Nashville? It's difficult for either party to justify coming here based strictly on our electoral votes. And those votes are all safely Republican. I mean, if you're a Republican official, it makes more political sense to go to Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, since Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both went for Trump in 2016 and then Biden four years later. In 2024, these states will be in the crosshairs again. BUT Republicans, in coming to Nashville, would be doubling down on home turf, in the heart of the South, smack-dab in the middle of their demo. I can just see the Republican delegates in loud sport coats and American ties knocking down longnecks on prime-time TV. Jason Aldean is playing loud. Think the NFL Draft, only it's politics. Republican America would love that all day and all night long.

Now, if you're a Democrat, and you think about coming here, you really get stumped. Maybe you want to make the argument that you picked Nashville because you're expanding the playing field by targeting moderates. Realistically though, that's a stretch.

IMHO, it makes a whole lot of sense for Republicans. I wouldn't be surprised.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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