Dem, GOP convention picks show the political influence of the Midwest

Both parties are already focusing on the Midwest ahead of next year’s presidential election, each opting to hold their national conventions in the region. The Republicans are hosting their July 2024 event in Milwaukee, the largest city in the swing state of Wisconsin. Democrats announced Tuesday they would be holding their next month’s in Chicago, just 90 miles away in deep blue Illinois.

In selecting Chicago over fellow finalists New York and Atlanta, the Democratic National Committee said the party was “returning to the Midwest, a critical Democratic stronghold,” and named Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota part of the “blue wall.” , which is crucial for Biden in 2020 as well as his party’s success in last fall’s midterm elections.

It overlooked Trump’s success in the Midwest four years ago, but the DNC also noted that Chicago epitomized the “impressive coalition” of voters that will be crucial for Biden in his expected 2024 re-election campaign.

“We see the importance of these states and the recognition by the Democratic Party that we must win them,” said Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, who was a leading supporter of Chicago’s bid.

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The Midwest wasn’t the only part of the country that gave Biden a boost in 2020. He flipped two sunbelt states, Arizona and Georgia, and conquered Pennsylvania, often considered part of the “blue wall” but not in the Midwest. Still, both parties’ choice of Midwest convention sites demonstrates the region’s continued political importance — though it’s no guarantee of support.

“The Midwest is the place,” said Cam Savage, a Republican strategist who has worked with senior GOP elected officials in the region. “They view Pennsylvania through Wisconsin — and pretty much everything in between — as key battlegrounds in any national election these days.”

It was the second straight election cycle that Democrats were looking to the Midwest for their convention. In 2020, the party selected Milwaukee to host it, but practically held it off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, it was up to Biden to pick a site, and he said Chicago would be a “showcase” for monitoring his administration’s post-pandemic economic growth and falling unemployment.

Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, is also heavily pro-union, demonstrating Biden’s commitment to organized labor, which played a key role in helping him win the 2020 Democratic primary and presidency.

“Atlanta could also have been strategic. But it doesn’t allow the party to really show all the principles it claims to stand for, and they can do that in Chicago,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. She signed a letter to the DNC from top labor groups and union workers urging her to vote for Chicago.

Pritzker highlighted his state’s strong defense of abortion rights as an important factor. Other Democrats were concerned about Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature and the state’s relaxed gun laws. And that’s despite Chicago being plagued by gun violence and Democrats potentially facing GOP attacks over rising crime rates in cities across the country.

Illinois Democratic Party leader Lisa Hernandez said the bid went beyond Chicago and her state, calling the convention site the “gateway to the Midwest’s blue bastion.” Elections other than 2016 in the last 30 years and that every state re-elected its Democratic governor last fall.

From the outset, organizers of Chicago’s bid argued with White House officials that they represented the Midwest as a whole. That hasn’t always been positive for Democrats, however.

Few places exemplify the Midwest’s ever-shifting electoral loyalties better than Wisconsin, where both Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican Senator Ron Johnson were reelected in last fall’s midterm elections.

Democrats, meanwhile, are still celebrating Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s win last week in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, which gave liberal justices control of the court for the first time in 15 years. They will likely have an opportunity to oppose an 1849 state abortion ban imposed by the reversal of the Roe v. Wade was triggered by the US Supreme Court and against Republican-favored congressional district maps.

“Wisconsin will always be 50/50, across the board,” said Democratic strategist Pete Giangreco, who has worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and is advising the 2024 US Senate candidates in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. “But you have to have the blue wall first, or the Georgias and the Arizonas don’t matter.”

Giangreco, who was also part of Protasiewicz’s victorious campaign, noted that progressive Brandon Johnson’s victory over a moderate Democratic rival in Chicago’s recent mayoral campaign may have boosted the city’s bid for the convention.

A former organizer of the Chicago Teachers Union, Johnson was supported by progressive leaders including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The 47-year-old, who is Black, won by building a multiracial coalition that included youth and labor unions, and he’s bringing a new sense of optimism to the city — a combination of factors Democrats will need to recreate in 2024 , called Giangreco.

“It’s very clear that Brandon brought younger people into activism and into the electorate,” Giangreco said. “It certainly didn’t hurt our chances that you have a mayor of the city who is dynamic, young and part of a movement that is an important part of our party.”

Weissert reported from Washington.

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