What to expect when the GOP Retreat descends on Center City Philly

Street closures, plus guest stars Peyton Manning and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Jeremy Long/Lebanon Daily News via USA TODAY NETWORK
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Center City is going to be chock full of Republicans this week.

Perhaps the biggest GOP gathering this side of the Republican National Convention starts Wednesday, and it’s happening at the Loews Hotel on Market Street. Philly gets Trump. Philly gets Pence. Philly gets Paul Ryan. Philly gets the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. (Wait, what?)

But this major political gathering won’t be similar to the DNC. The GOP Retreat is a closed-doors event that’s mostly about getting business done — or yelling at each other. Here’s a guide to what you can expect out of the retreat, the guests and the protests.  

Where is this happening? Will traffic be bad?

The Loews Hotel is located at 12th and Market streets and many of the streets in that area will be closed off during daytime from Wednesday to Friday. Specifically, reports the Inquirer, 11th from Market to Juniper, 12th from Chestnut to Arch and 13th from Chestnut to Market will be closed.

What exactly is the GOP retreat?

The name implies vacation and relaxation, but it’s less spa day and more business meeting. GOP retreats of the past have been about setting the Republican agenda in an atmosphere where everyone from the party can get together, away from Democrats and away from Washington.  

Ryan told the Washington Post , with regards to health care changes, “We’re going to have a full, exhausting conversation at our retreat to go through all of these things.”

Is it weird to have this in Philly, a hugely liberal city?

Not really. The GOP has a retreat every year, and the key is proximity to Washington. Last year, the Republicans held it in Baltimore. In 2015, they held it in Hershey. Very little fun happens at these events, so it’s generally just best to get them over with.    

What do they even do?

Boring work stuff. Seriously. The GOP retreat has plenty of political star power, but this is not the Republican National Convention. There are no major parties, and meals are often eaten on-site.

If you’re a Republican looking to hang out with some Congressmen or Senators, you better have some serious contacts. The festivities — what there are of festivities — are supposed to be closed to the press and the public.

But really what will they do?

Probably argue a lot. As Politico wrote last year, the Republicans pretty much used the retreats from 2011 to 2014 to “scream at John Boehner and Eric Cantor.” And, shocker, given Trump’s surprising, divisive victory and penchant for calling out fellow pols, some interesting shouting matches could certainly develop in Philadelphia. The big topics are likely to be health care and tax reform.     

Who’s going to be here?

Everybody, pretty much. As mentioned earlier, Trump and Pence have confirmed they will attend. Trump is going to be at the event on Thursday. Typically, most Congressmen and Senators go to the retreat, so expect people like Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Arizona Senator John McCain to name a few. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, will be around as part of a trip to America that includes a scheduled visit with Trump.

Also: Peyton Manning. The retired NFL quarterback, who has been mentioned as a future politician, is leaving Papa John’s side momentarily to speak to members of the House and Senate. 

Will there be protesters?

Sure looks like it. One is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. and one is scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. Another group doesn’t have a designated protest but is listing sites around town where “informal opportunities might present themselves.”

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