Charlotte vs. Tampa

The South is party central this season, as Democrats and Republicans rally for November's presidential race. Which convention city gets your vote?
Articles: Tommy Tomlinson and Mike Wilson

Why Charlotte Reigns Supreme
In 1791, President George Washington came to visit Charlotte—a city so young and small it didn't yet have a post office. After he left, he wrote in his diary that Charlotte was a "trifling place."

We've had a chip on our shoulder about that for 221 years.

Our town doesn't have the magnolia charm of Savannah or Charleston. Your waitress might call you "honey," but she also might be working on her MBA. Charlotte was built at the intersection of two Native American trading paths, and from day one we've been about business: cotton, textiles, and now banking. We are America's ATM. And when it comes to deals, we play rough; when key employees at Bank of America performed over and above, former CEO Hugh McColl would award them crystal hand grenades.

In other words, Charlotte is the perfect spot for a political convention.

The Democrats are coming to a town where it doesn't matter where you came from or what your grandmother's maiden name is. If you work hard and chip in, you rise. That was true for Billy Graham, who grew up on a dairy farm here and became America's preacher; it was true for Harvey B. Gantt, who integrated Clemson University, moved here as an architect, and became Charlotte's first black mayor.

Over the years, we've grown into the big britches we picked out for ourselves. We've got NFL skyboxes and five-star lodging and fleets of "Beemers" headed home after a long day in the office towers. But we also love NASCAR and pro wrestling and cold cans of Bud from the bottom of the cooler.

Just like Tampa, minus the Yankees and alligators.

Addition by subtraction.

Why Tampa Takes the Cake
Even people who have lived in Tampa for generations aren't sure what the name of the city means. It might derive from an Indian word, "itimpi," meaning "near it." (Near what?) Others say Tampa means "sticks of fire" or "a place to gather sticks."

After many years here, I believe Tampa means not one thing but many things. It means "bottlenose dolphins cavorting in gentle bay water." It means "many minarets," the iconic architectural features on the old Tampa Bay Hotel. It means "awesome beaches, but leave early because traffic can be awful."

Tampa means "try the 1905 Salad at the Columbia." It means "Broadway theater at the Straz." It means "a mock-invasion by pirates every January." It means "gateway to St. Pete, which is actually hipper than you think." It means "determined hunter-gatherer woman toting Nordstrom bag."

It means "honestly, pretty hot in August."

Tampa means "large men playing games," with the Bucs, Lightning, and Rays entertaining us year-round. Tampa means "flavor of Cuba," "values of the Midwest," and "friendliness of the South." It means "I had some issues up North, so I am starting over here."

When the ancients said "Tampa," surely they must also have meant "not a bad place for the Republicans, even though the Democrats outnumber them." The Tampa Bay area has produced two GOP governors since 1987. And it is home to MacDill Air Force Base—not exactly an atmosphere of bohemian liberalism. Even the manatees here seem to swim a little to the right.

The most precise translation of the word Tampa, if you ask me?

"Just a little nicer than Charlotte."

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