The Republican National Committee has just revealed the location and timing of the 2016 GOP convention: Cleveland, probably in late June or mid July. Location-wise, this makes lots of sense because the alternative to the swing state of Ohio was beet-red Dallas, Tex. Weather-wise, it makes sense, too. But the wisdom of the convention’s timing? That’s debatable—and will, in fact, still have to be hashed out with Cleveland. The GOP’s site selection committee has recommended June 28 or July 18, and RNC chairman Reince Priebus is said to prefer June.
The rationale for an early convention is that it would allow the Republican nominee earlier access to general election campaign money. In 2012, Mitt Romney couldn’t access those funds until after the party’s late-August convention, and Republicans such as Priebus believe this helped cost Romney the election.
Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, pointedly disagrees. Although it’s hardly surprising that a Democrat would criticize a Republican Party decision, Plouffe’s rationale is worth considering. “Strategically, I don’t understand it,” Plouffe says. “As a party, you have two big weapons in a presidential race: the selection of the vice president and the convention. To potentially have those over by July 4th makes no sense.” Republicans, he argues, will have exhausted their two shots at a big national audience many months before the election.
What’s more, Plouffe says, if you include Super PAC money, Republicans outspent Democrats during the summer of 2012. “We spent the better part of the summer trying to figure out how to deal with a blizzard of negative ads,” he notes. “It was not fun. They reinforced some of our problems.”
By moving the 2016 convention to the beginning of the summer, Plouffe warns, “Republicans are over-correcting for the wrong problem.”
So when should Democrats hold their 2016 convention? “The first week of September,” says Plouffe. “People are back from summer vacation. It’s when you have the highest TV ratings. More people will be engaged—not just the electorate but volunteers and campaign staffers, too.”
Although it would break from tradition, Plouffe notes that a party could name its vice president at the beginning of the summer and hold its convention at the end, tent-poling public attention during the long summer months.