Maybe it was the private nighttime visit to Independence historical park, where the Democratic National Committee chairwoman got to touch the Liberty Bell.
Whatever it was that sealed the deal, Democrats on Thursday chose Philadelphia for their 2016 national convention, looking ahead to Independence Hall and other symbols of America’s birth bathing their presidential nominee in a patriotic aura.
“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who had caressed the Liberty Bell, said in announcing the decision.
Philadelphia, which beat out New York and Columbus, Ohio, was widely seen as the favorite throughout the selection process, in part because it was a safe pick both financially and politically. It had the individual and corporate backing to fund a convention — it hosted the Republicans in 2000 — and it offered a less-risky backdrop than New York, a liberal epicenter and the home to a polarizing mayor, Bill de Blasio.
The decision was largely made by Wasserman Schultz, without aggressive lobbying from President Obama, Bill Clinton, or Hillary Rodham Clinton during the process.
Pressed on whether New York was sidelined because of questions about de Blasio, including a nasty recent dispute with city police unions, Wasserman Schultz said that was not true.
“The only three factors we considered when deciding which was the strongest city were logistics, security, and resources,” she said in a conference call with reporters.
But New York apparently did lose points by proposing the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the convention, which posed logistical hurdles. With a shortage of hotel rooms in the borough, thousands of attendees would have had to shuttle back and forth to Manhattan, with the potential for transportation snarls.
Wasserman Schultz said Philadelphia’s strength was the proximity of hotels to its arena, the Wells Fargo Center, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The seamlessness of the “delegate experience,” she said, was “a very, very important thing” in making the choice.
Edward G. Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor who guided the city’s bid, said that with Broad Street turned into a one-way thoroughfare for the convention, the 4.5-mile trip between the Wells Fargo Center and Center City, with 11,000 hotel rooms, would be seven or eight minutes.
Describing the criteria the national committee was weighing before the announcement, Rendell spoke about a risk-averse checklist that seemed to point to Philadelphia as the safest pick.
“First and foremost you want to do no harm,” he said. “Secondly you want those delegates to leave the building flying.”
The 2016 convention, which is scheduled for the week of July 25, is more than a month earlier than recent conventions, which typically fell around Labor Day. The party gave up the greater voter attention that comes later on the calendar in order to counter any bounce in the polls for the Republican nominee, who will be picked at the GOP convention in Cleveland from July 18 through 21.
It is a risky choice because undecided voters on their summer vacations may skip the television coverage, the chief purpose of modern conventions.
Columbus, the 15th-largest city in the country and Ohio’s capital, promoted itself as an affordable alternative, with a walkable, Midwestern vibe. But Columbus has a small airport and fewer downtown hotels.