The Republican National Convention arrives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Well, technically, members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) are to vote on the issue at their meetings in Chicago this week. The site selection committee has recommended that the largest city in Badger State be the host of the 2024 convention and RNC members are expected to confirm that decision at their summer meetings. So why will it be in Milwaukee?
First, it is a turnkey proposition. The region was successful in winning the bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Arrangements for hotel accommodations, catering and other catering services, security issues and other issues were worked out to a national political convention and can be reused in 2024.
Additionally, much of the money raised for the 2020 convention comes from sources that can be tapped again for the 2024 convention. through civic pride and economic impact. The preparatory work has been done and is largely transferable to the next congress.
All in all, the local convention and visitor bureau — Visit Milwaukee — has put together an impressive proposition. Because they had done the same for the Democrats’ convention in 2020, the people making the recommendation for the RNC knew Milwaukee could deliver on their promises. Milwaukee’s new mayor did a great job convincing the selection board that he would be welcome. The president of the Republican Party of Wisconsin has done a great job of bringing people together in the area. Local activist Gerard Randal helped lead the charge along with former RNC chairman Reince Preibus. John Hiller and others helped behind the scenes. It was a great team effort.
Many may not know it, but Milwaukee sits on the shores of Lake Michigan with one of the most open lakefronts in the Great Lakes region. It’s home to several professional sports teams, arts and entertainment, museums, an award-winning zoo, exceptional restaurants and bars, and Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival.
Second, the Fiserv Forum is a state-of-the-art facility perfect for hosting a national convention. The home of world champion Milwaukee Bucks is the National Basketball Association’s second newest arena. I was with members of the Site Selection Committee when they visited the Fiserv Forum earlier this year. They were impressed with the resort. It has ample seating, excellent access for staging and equipment, and a notable outdoor entertainment area called Deer District.
In addition, the Fiserv Forum was built with the latest technologies. Speaker Preibus noted that it cost party organizers about $1 million to install 5G equipment in the arena in Cleveland, Ohio for the 2016 national convention. This technology is already integrated into the Fiserv Forum.
The financing of the new construction was unique. In Wisconsin, professional basketball players (home and visiting teams) pay pro-rated income tax for each game. These funds were used to cover the state government commitment. Current and former team owners have matched the public commitment to the new arena. Unlike most sports construction projects, this was done without new or increased taxes.
Overall, the pitch was simple: Milwaukee could match the plans of any of the other venues being considered for the convention. Once we demonstrated that we were equal or better than the other regions, my final push was to go to a state that matters.
In 2016, Wisconsin was key to President Donald Trump’s election. In 2020, the reverse was true for President Joe Biden. In 2000 and 2004, the margin was less than one vote per ward statewide. Wisconsin is a real battleground state.
In contrast, the other 2024 Republican National Convention runner-up is Nashville. It is a great city in wonderful condition. But Tennessee hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a presidential election in decades. Even former Vice President Al Gore couldn’t wear his home country twenty-two years ago. Voluntary State Electoral College votes go to whoever is the Republican candidate for president in 2024.
With that in mind, why not pick a city in a state that matters?
Improving margins in Milwaukee can help achieve that in 2024. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson carried Milwaukee County in one of his re-election campaigns. And I was elected three times to the Milwaukee County Executive in an area that traditionally votes Democrats by about a two-to-one margin.
Making inroads into Milwaukee could help carry the state of Wisconsin, which could be the key to a Republican president’s victory in 2024. That’s why all roads seem to be heading towards Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the next Republican National Convention. We’ll have a cold beer ready for you!
• Scott Walker is the president of the Young America’s Foundation and served as Wisconsin’s 45th governor from 2011 to 2019.