The DNC: Four Years Later...

September 2012

Four years ago, Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention. It was the Mile High City’s quinceañera; a coming-of-age party to celebrate a town we already knew was unforgettable—regardless of your political views. At that convention, Barack Obama took the stage at a packed Broncos’ stadium (pictured above). Tonight, that same man will accept his party’s nomination to seek reelection as President of the United States. So, what did the 2008 DNC mean to Denver? We asked some of Denver’s movers-and-shakers to weigh in. 

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“When Denver hosted the DNC in 2008, we had the opportunity to show the country and the world what is great about Colorado—the entrepreneurial spirit of our people who live in a beautiful state filled with majestic mountains, vast prairies, and clear skies. These past couple of years, our country has been through some challenging times and, although we still have to make up for some lost ground, we are headed in the right direction. From what I see traveling the state, nothing has changed since I gave my remarks to the convention delegates in the Mile High stadium four years ago. Coloradans are still working together, offering pragmatic solutions to solve our state’s problems. These are the values voters will be looking for in candidates come November.” —Senator Mark Udall

“When you saw pictures of how our region showed up on TV, we showed extremely well. The thought was that if we do this right, we change the world’s view of what Denver is. …The success was over-the-top tremendous. We changed our own minds. In trying to change the world’s view, we changed ourselves.—Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

In terms of visitors and conventions to Denver, we refer to tourism business in Denver as ‘BC’ and ‘AD,’ (‘Before the Convention,’ and ‘After the Democrats.’) The DNC had that much impact. It transformed the way that everyone in the travel industry looked at Denver. From potential tourists to meeting planners, tour operators to travel agents, airline executives to hotel operators, it was as if everyone saw Denver's potential for the first time. …We are still reaping the benefit from the success of the DNC, and we will do so for many years to come. …The DNC was a start, and we need more events like the USA Pro Challenge and the upcoming presidential debates to keep that worldwide momentum going. —Richard Scharf, President and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau

“First of all, Denver did a tremendous job hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2008. And I had a great time as Colorado Republican state chairman going to the Pepsi Center to do media interviews that week! The most obvious political change is that Colorado is truly competitive in 2012 and President Obama is struggling to hold onto a state he won by several points in 2008. Hope and Change has given way to the hard reality of a stagnant economy magnified by the fact that the failed stimulus bill was signed into law in Denver in February 2009. The swing voters who gave President Obama his big margin in 2008—unaffiliated and Republican women in Jefferson, Arapahoe, and Larimer Counties—are, at best, terribly disappointed in the President and want to vote for an alternative. Mitt Romney's challenge is to prove himself worthy as someone who can create jobs and improve the economy.” —Dick Wadhams, former Colorado Republican state chairman

“What has changed in Denver and Aurora is that unemployment has gone down. Several new companies have relocated headquarters in Colorado. Traffic is worse. Foreclosures have improved somewhat. The state of Colorado received ARRA money that kept higher education open and public. Colorado implemented the Health Insurance Exchange. Women's birth control somehow became a topic. Aurora faced a shooting massacre and is finally going to get a leg of Fast Tracks started. …[The DNC] made it easy for Colorado Democrats to be a part of the national excitement around the 2008 election. It meant new tourists and visitors fell in love with Colorado, and undecided voters in Colorado felt the energy from the local attention. —State Senator Morgan Carroll

“The DNC put Denver on the world stage like never before. The exposure we received, along with the superb execution of a flawless convention allowed us to showcase Denver to the world as an amazing vibrant innovative world-class city. As a result, our convention and tourism business is at an all-time high, bringing visitors to our state in record numbers. Recent additions of international airlines with flights to Reykjavik, Tokyo, and Mexico City is just one example of how things are changing positively.” —Walter Isenberg, President and CEO of Sage Hospitality

“The 2008 DNC showcased our city on a national and international stage, introducing the world to a 21st century Denver. Conducting an outstanding convention, with a memorable acceptance speech by then-candidate Barack Obama, set a new level of expectation across the country. That exposure helped Denver become the No. 1 convention destination in the world. It also laid the groundwork for Denver to host the first and most watched presidential debate this election year (on October 3 at the University of Denver). Once again, business owners will get a glimpse of one of the nation’s best places for doing business, and young people will see a why we are a ‘magnet for the future workforce.’ Once again, Denver will be in the world spotlight. And, once again, our smart, progressive community will have a chance to shine.—Mayor Michael B. Hancock

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Were you there? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

—Image: 2008 DNC Supporters (Frontpage / Shutterstock.com)

Follow senior editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter at @natashajgardner or on Pinterest.