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What are National Party Conventions?

The Presidential Nominating Conventions, also known as,  National party conventions or “conventions”, are held every four years by the Democratic and Republican parties in the summer prior to the presidential election. Delegates, who are elected by party members in each of the states and U.S. territories, gather together to officially nominate the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the general election. The convention delegates also approve the party platform—the policy commitments the party makes to the public to guide their governing priorities- if they are elected. Delegates also vote on changes to internal party rules and procedures.

Conventions are a major transition point in the presidential campaign. They mark the end of the nomination phase of the campaign when multiple candidates of the same party compete against one another to be the single candidate of the party. The convention not only makes the nominee the official candidate of the party, but provides the opportunity to unify the party, rally its members for the fall campaign, and shift its messaging to appeal to more moderate and less politically engaged voters in the general election.

Conventions are a critical part of the presidential campaign because, along with the presidential debates, large groups of the general public watch them live. National parties strategically plan the convention’s speakers, messages, and images to convey their election themes to the public.


Benefits of National Party Conventions for Host Cities

Cities bid to host conventions in part because of the numerous public relations opportunities. Conventions allow cities to “brand” and share the best of their region for a wide audience that may have little prior knowledge or exposure to the city.

Party officials, delegates, and VIPs come from all over the country. They provide word-of-mouth promotion of what they experienced upon returning home. Over 15,000 members of the domestic and international media attend. Host cities leverage the media coverage of party conventions to advertise their communities to business leaders and individuals who might be interested in visiting, relocating, or investing.

Planners of other major conventions and events take notice of a city’s ability to successfully host a large, complex event. Host city leaders recognize how this opens additional opportunities to host future conventions for all types of business and civic groups and sports and entertainment entities.

During the convention, visitors benefit the host city’s economy through their direct spending on hotels, food, services and entertainment, transportation, and souvenirs. Economic studies estimate that conventions bring between $100 million to $300 million worth of spending to the host city leading up to and during the four-day event.


Influences of National Party Conventions

Conventions also have political outcomes, but in a less obvious way than one may think. These events do not help the party holding its convention secure the host state’s Electoral College vote, in part because they do not increase voter turnout. Instead, conventions increase local and regional residents’ interest in the presidential campaign, their probability of volunteering for campaign efforts, and their likelihood to engage in conversations to persuade friends, neighbors and relatives to vote for a candidate. Members of the political party hosting the convention feel these effects most clearly.


Coordination to host Party Conventions

Partnerships across many areas make these events successful and a point of pride for future opportunities. City officials may also benefit from higher approval ratings for successful convention efforts. Residents see their city implement a high-profile event effectively and have the opportunity to take part in welcoming visitors and experience history.


Charlotte’s Convention Legacy

Conventions are an established part of the fabric of American democracy. In 2020, Charlotte joins a very short list of cities to have hosted both Republican and Democratic national party conventions.  Moreover, our city will have hosted both within 10 years and was selected by two sitting Presidents.   The Queen City will very likely have another chance to host a national party convention.

Credit UNC-Charlotte