Democrats Might Get Wisconsin Boost This Fall Due To DNC

Mar 13, 2020

The Democratic presidential nominations may still be up in the air, but preparations for the party’s 2020 nominating convention are very much in progress here in Milwaukee.

Thousands of Democratic party officials will gather at the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee from July 13-16 to decide who will face off against President Donald Trump in November. Milwaukee was chosen over three other finalists: Denver, Miami, and Houston, two years ago.

Democratic officials selected Milwaukee in part because of the findings of several "postmortem" analyses from the 2016 election, which argue that both rural and urban Wisconsinites felt disenfranchised. As many noted at the time, 2016 marked the first presidential election that Wisconsin’s 11 electoral votes went for a Republican since Ronald Reagan’s 49-state near sweep in 1985.

“Where you hold your convention is a very strong statement of your values,” Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said during the DNC host city announcement in 2018.

A party’s values aren’t all that gets boosted from a convention site though. The choice of a party’s convention site has the potential to boost local participation in favor of Democrats during general elections, according to a 2014 study of historical voting patterns.

“What we expect to see in the Milwaukee area is that the red areas will be a little redder, the blue counties will be a little bluer,” said Christopher Mann, a political scientist at Skidmore College who co-authored the study in the Journal of Politics.

“The net effect of that is when you add this up cumulatively ... that should advantage the Democrats.”

This chart shows the conditional effects of convention exposure on Democratic vote share based on county-level data.
Credit The Journal of Politics

Mann says his study was unique because unlike in previously inconclusive studies, his colleagues studied voting patterns in media markets instead of states. Since Wisconsin doesn’t have a media market of comparable size to compete with Milwaukee, the local boost will likely be felt statewide.

This is different than the 2016 DNC, which was also in a swing state, Pennsylvania. Though, the host city of Philadelphia has a media market that spills over into New Jersey and Delaware, and is offset by a like-sized market across the state, Pittsburgh.

The study cites a number of other reasons why parties choose conventions, such as their infrastructure for handling large visitor influxes. The study did not, however, find any conclusive evidence why Republicans seem to suffer electorally in the areas where they choose to hold conventions.

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