PHILADELPHIA (MEDIA GENERAL) — Democratic National Convention planners have a tricky job when it comes to seating delegates, thanks to the sheer volume of party operatives in Philadelphia for Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential nomination.
As any traumatized dinner party host well knows, situating eight guests around the table can be a delicate and difficult task, much less thousands of party faithful at a national convention.
With more than 4,600 delegates and superdelegates on hand to nominate Clinton — double the number present at the Republican National Convention — the floor chart requires extraordinary diplomatic savvy.
When delegates spend decades working on behalf of a cause, feathers are easily ruffled at the slightest hint of perceived seating slights.
So the states with sentimental and must-win status go up front, while the solidly red and in-the-doghouse delegations get sent to the back.
The Wells Fargo arena isn’t exactly enormous to begin with.
The south Philly facility is broken into four levels this week: the floor, lower bowl, suites and upper tier.
Suites and the upper tier are for spectators, so those are off limits.
Rather than turn the arena floor into a claustrophobic sardine can, as delegates experienced at the RNC in Cleveland, the DNC spread out chairs and gave wide berth between aisles.
Only a handful of lucky states of sentimental or strategic significance sit front and center, including New York, which Clinton represented in the U.S. Senate, Arkansas, Iowa, Virginia and Florida.
The spacious floor setup bumped more state delegates to the first tier of stadium seating, which is mixed space for battleground states and repayment for those who helped Clinton lock up the nomination.
In the front half of the lower bowl, Colorado and New Mexico, two states Democrats hope to win in November, are seated beside others like South Carolina that decisively broke for Clinton during the primary season.
The back half constitutes the nosebleeds, and houses delegations from places that will never vote Democrat or need a lesson in consequences.
North Dakota is in the cold wilderness of seating simply because it goes reliably red in presidential contests.
On the other hand, revenge is a seat best served cold for Michigan, which voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primaries and rocked Clinton country to its core.
Overall, the arena has a warm feel given every seat’s relative proximity to speakers, plus public complaints would be uncouth.
By the time Hillary Clinton speaks on Thursday evening, most hard feelings about seating will be forgotten and she’ll be surrounded by thousands of cheering delegates happy to bear witness to history as she becomes the first woman to ever win a major American political party’s presidential nod.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales