Tampa is basically a perfect place for a major party’s national convention — except for the weather, of course.
Republican Party officials knew that there was always the threat of a hurricane during an August convention on the West Coast of Florida. It rolled the dice and came up snake-eyes.
But apart from the threat of severe weather — which we should emphasize was pretty small — and the already-tough-to-handle heat, Tampa made a whole lot of sense as a host city.
Tampa-St. Petersburg is the biggest swing area in the biggest swing state in the country. Florida is worth 29 electoral votes, and the two counties surrounding Tampa — Pinellas and Hillsborough — are two of just four counties in Florida that flipped from Republican to Democrat between the 2004 and 2008 presidential race. Each went between 53 and 54 percent for President Obama after favoring President Bush four years earlier.
Tampa is also at the west end of the all-important Interstate 4 corridor, which runs from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area up to Orlando, which swung significantly for Obama in 2008. The county south of Orlando, Osceola, was the third of four counties to flip Democratic four years ago, and the two media markets along the corridor reach close to half of the state’s voters.
This area has also struggled to recover economically from the recent recession, making it prime property for Republicans to pick up swing voters unhappy with the president they helped choose four years ago.
In other words, if there’s one area in the country where Republicans need to perform, it might be the I-4 corridor.
Tampa was picked from among three finalists; the others were Salt Lake City and Phoenix. Unlike those two sites, Tampa comes from an electorally important state — a key reason it emerged as the victor.
While the two parties picked host cities for their conventions in non-competitive states in 2004 (New York and Boston), the selections in 2008 and 2012 trended toward swing states.
Republicans held their convention in St. Paul in 2008, while Democrats went to Denver. This year, Democrats opted for Charlotte, N.C., while Republicans picked Tampa. Colorado, North Carolina and Florida are all bona fide swing states, while Minnesota generally leans slightly Democratic.
Tampa was officially selected in May, 2010. But ever since, there has been a slight undercurrent of consternation about the possibility of a hurricane marring the festivities.
The Tampa Bay Times even wrote a story in May broaching the possibility of such a situation ruining the event. The story noted that the odds of a hurricane hitting the city during the convention were less than 1 percent.
Those odds were apparently just bad enough.