From the very beginning, Charlotte was the favorite to win the bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.
That’s according to the RNC’s site selection committee chairman Ron Kaufman, who worked with each of the bid cities through the selection process that came to a close on Friday.
“I’ll be real honest, from the first day that Charlotte came to [Washington D.C.] to talk to us all, we were blown away,” Kaufman said. “Not just the presentation and the fact that they had done it before. But the strength of the leadership — from Mayor [Vi] Lyles to the city manager and the police chief. It was just so professional.”
Much has been made about the number of cities that didn’t bid — particularly in this political climate. Kaufman says that seven cities responded to a request for proposal, and after he looked into a number of them, it was obvious that only a handful had the requisite number of hotel rooms and conference space.
"For some of the cities, I said to them, ‘I’d love you to bid, but the bottom line is, given the lack of hotel rooms, you’re not going to get the bid,' " Kaufman said.
Kaufman pointed to Charlotte’s leadership as one of the primary reasons the city was an early favorite.
“The truth is, what moved us the most as a committee was the sense of passion and dedication of its leaders, starting with the mayor,” he said. “It’s clear that they wanted us from the beginning. It had nothing to do with politics.”
Kaufman watched Monday’s public forum at Charlotte Government Center with interest as Charlotteans debated the merits of hosting the convention.
“It was great,” he said. “But the majority of people who spoke were favorable. It was a diverse group of people.”
Now, Kaufman says, he has received phone calls and emails from otherwise hesitant city leaders about how to make the convention work.
Kaufman has a long history in the Republican Party and served under President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush. He currently serves as the national committeeman from Massachusetts. He doesn’t believe the party’s selection of North Carolina’s largest city will have any impact on the 2020 election — at least not yet.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in November of this year or November of 2020.
“The truth is, we don’t pick a site because of politics,” Kaufman added. “The convention is the only thing the party can control from beginning to end. If you have a good convention, you can gain 8-10 points. If you have a bad one, you can lose 8-10 points.”
The politics, Kaufman said, are secondary.