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Democrats’ 2024 D.N.C. Moneyball

Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
September 29, 2022

Every four years, long before potential presidential candidates begin haunting diners in Iowa or courting organizers in New Hampshire, poobah-level Democrats are already strategizing and debating where to hold their national convention. The location, after all, carries some symbolic significance: ideally, it should advance some sort of narrative about the party, and offer the chance to preach directly to undecided voters in a critical swing state. That said, it’s also vital to the art of high-end donor maintenance and financial engineering. There’s an estimated $70 million in costs and arguably nine figures in revenue on the line for cities in contention, all splattered across tourism and hospitality and attendant sectors, as operatives vie for the rare chance to win the hearts and minds of the biggest donors by making sure they’re invited to the right parties and events, placing them firmly in their rolodex for life. There’s also the opportunity for emerging political stars to highlight their brand of Democratic politics. 

So, the stakes are spectacularly high for the mayor and governors who spend months quietly courting D.N.C. officials, not to mention the patrons and business people that they raise cash from to offer up as convention funds. At times, it can even seem a little like a Miss America pageant, down to the cynicism undermining it all. “This has zero to do with nominating the president. It’s a show for donors,” said one major donor who’s already been asked to join the host committee for one of the four cities in contention—Houston, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. “And if you make the donors feel special, then you own them. They will be with you forever.”