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Mayor Michael A. Nutter and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell addressed media members at the top of the infamous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art last Thursday afternoon, as the Democratic National Committee site selection committee was poised to depart the City of Brotherly Love after a two-day tour.

“I think they’re feeling the love of Philadelphia,” Nutter remarked. “And our team, the host committee team, Kevin Washo, and all of the city folks on my side that were a part of this seamless coordination, the [Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau], VisitPhilly, all of them did a spectacular job, and I think they leave going back to their respective areas knowing that this is a city that clearly can put on a major national convention.”

The convention destination, which would take place in 2016, won’t be officially announced until later this year or early ’15. Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio, Birmingham, Ala., and New York City are the other locations under consideration. Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000 but hasn’t hosted the DNC since 1948 (the nominee was Harry Truman).

It seems as though the selection committee, led by Amy Dacey, CEO of the DNC since earlier this year and former executive director of Emily’s List, will focus primarily on logistics: hotel rooms, transportation, fundraising and usable venues.

It almost goes without saying that the city would benefit tremendously in short and longer terms. The influx of delegates and convention-goers would mean a boom for Philadelphia’s service and hotel industry. And, as it turns out, the facility that rose to the top of the list of eligible locations is the Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. Nutter said it addresses the major four Ds.

“It’s all about the Ds,” he explained. “It’s about the delegates, it’s about the donors, it’s about the Democratic nominee and it’s about details. And I think they understand, the city committee understands, that we have all of those bases covered and more, and this is a place where they’ll have a great time.”

Nutter and Rendell, with the help of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, tried to show the selection committee as many charming aspects of the city as they could in two days, and that included an early lunch on Wednesday at Pat’s King of Steaks, 1237 E. Passyunk Ave.

And as Rendell put it, he thinks the committee was wowed by the Wells Fargo Center as the ideal destination for the convention.

“If I were to grade how we did, I would give us, at every venue, every stop, every interview — we did 100 out of 100,” the former Philadelphia mayor and chairman of the DNC assured media with the formidable Center City skyline behind him. “Does that mean we’re going to get the convention, necessarily? No, it doesn’t. But I am extraordinarily pleased with how the venues presented themselves.

“The Wells Fargo Center and the Comcast-Spectacor people did a great job and I think the Wells Fargo Center is probably the best venue for a convention that they are hoping to see and they were blown away by the Center.”

 

The chances of each city’s success have been widely speculated in the media, and the general consensus is that Philly may only have to defeat New York City for the honor. The Republican National Convention is already set for Cleveland in ’16. And while Philadelphia may offer the winning mix of logistics, where they’ll find the strongest competition is in fundraising.

The City does not pay for these conventions, and even though the federal government typically throws a solid $50 million into the mix for security measures, there is a great deal of fundraising necessary to get this convention to Philadelphia — to the tune of at least $100 million. Something, it seems, New York and Brooklyn power-brokers wouldn’t have a problem coughing up.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, JPMorgan Chase’s CEO James Dimon, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein and actress Cynthia Nixon have already committed hundreds of millions. New York DNC strategists have designated Brooklyn’s Barclay Center as the convention home.

“New York will try to outbid us with money but we hope it doesn’t come down to money,” Brady said in a phone interview. “The host committee was really impressed with the city. They were extremely impressed with Wells Fargo because it’s a much better situation than the Barclay Center.”

Brady pointed to the proximity of Lincoln Financial Field, parking, and the convenience of other stadiums nearby.

“I hope it doesn’t come down to money,” he added.

It could boil down to something as simple as hotel rooms – 17,000 are necessary to accommodate all delegates and guests. Only 410 rooms are within two miles of the Barclay Center. Washo, a lead strategist for the Philadelphia host convention team, told the Wall Street Journal that 65 percent of the required hotel rooms are within a 15-minute walk from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

However, there’s this one intangible aspect of Philadelphia that might just be the winning factor. And that’s the city’s rich American history in and Pennsylvania’s reputation for going blue around election season. Jim Burn, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party chairman, is hopeful that it’s these thematic selling points might tip the scales in Philly’s favor.

“Philadelphia has a great story to tell and so does the Commonwealth,” Burn said.

He cheered on the efforts of Nutter and Rendell for running a tight tour for the committee and squashed rumors that Nutter wasn’t as helpful as he could be in bringing the convention to Philadelphia.

“I can assure your readers that as state chairman in the last several months, and I have been places in the state that are nowhere near Philadelphia on their map, is that they have heard from Mayor Nutter asking for support and assistance in landing the convention,” Burn said emphatically. “He is working the phones very aggressively to build up support to make this happen.”

Editor’s note: This piece is cross-posted from the South Philly Review.

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