CHICAGO — Democrats across the Midwest are appealing to President Joe Biden to back Chicago as the destination for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, arguing the party must send a strong signal of support if it is to keep its "blue wall" of states intact in the next presidential election.
A band of governors, members of Congress and mayors from Illinois to Minnesota to Kentucky signed a letter Wednesday that was first made available to NBC News, calling on both the White House and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to choose Chicago.
Their argument? The so-called blue wall has voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992 with one exception – Donald Trump in 2016.
That's when Democrats took their eye off the ball, they say.
"Those states were taken for granted until ominous warning signs flashed on Election Day, at which point they were already lost," the letter reads. "That single exception proves the rule: When the future of the country hangs in the balance, we cannot afford to overlook the Midwest."
In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton famously skipped visiting Wisconsin during her general election campaign, and the state fell to Trump, who won by about 22,000 votes. Biden eked out a Wisconsin victory in 2020 by roughly 20,000 votes and at the time claimed he had restored the "blue wall" in the Midwest.
"In an incredibly polarized nation, whose electoral college model has a griphold on election outcomes, the Midwest is utterly indispensable to the party’s success and should be the home of its 2024 convention," the letter continued.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz — all Democrats — are backing Chicago for the convention site, as well as Democrats in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and beyond.
Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sherrod Brown of Ohio were among the other signatories.
DNC officials have considered Chicago and Atlanta the front-runners in the bid for the convention in 2024, but New York remains in the running, according to two people close to the discussions. Ultimately, however, the decision is up to Biden, whose choices aren't always predictable; in December, he stunned even South Carolina officials when he chose the state to supplant Iowa to hold the first-in-the-nation contest in the Democratic presidential primaries.
The letter Wednesday didn't call out Georgia by name, but officials alluded to red-state concerns, among them voting access and the fact that it is a so-called right-to-work state.
"Holding a convention in a state whose policies fundamentally oppose Democratic principles would send a devastating message to voters," they argued. "The Midwest has been a bastion of strong labor unions for generations, an oasis for reproductive choice, and a stronghold of civil rights protections."
In January, a group of leaders in favor of holding the convention in Atlanta made a similar appeal for Georgia. Among those backing an Atlanta convention is former Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who is now a senior DNC official and Biden political adviser, and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a powerful political ally of Biden's.
“Democratic turnout in the state of Georgia is the single greatest reason that you and Vice President Harris are in the White House today instead of Donald Trump,” that letter read.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has strongly advocated for Chicago. She just lost her re-election bid, but within 48 hours of the loss, the remaining two candidates competing in the runoff — Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson — together sent the DNC a letter affirming they're fully committed to the convention.
The letter read, in part, "Regardless of who becomes the next Mayor, it will be a top priority to work with the current mayoral administration in a seamless transition and bring the convention to Chicago and ensure it is a success in every possible way."