Election Strategy: GOP Considers Sin City and 7 Others for RNC Host

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The roster of Republican candidates running in the primaries of the 2016 presidential election are far from set, but candidates for the host of the Republican National Convention are being vetted. On Thursday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced the finalists — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, and which city will eventually be chosen will have more to do with the strategic position that each city represents in the upcoming elections than the quality of their convention centers.

There may be no hard and fast evidence that links electoral success with the placement of a party’s convention, and as University of Maine political scientist Richard Powell noted in a 2004 article, “generally, parties do not derive significant electoral benefits in states selected to host the national convention,” but it can be argued that it cannot hurt to have GOP’s presidential candidate emerge into the public limelight in a strategically important city.

On the other side, the chosen city derives significant economic and publicity benefits from hosting the party’s presidential nomination convention. The 2012 convention, where Mitt Romney was nominated, brought an influx of $404 million into Tampa’s economy.

All eight cities will send representatives to Washington on Monday to present their bid to host the convention, which will likely take place in June or July of 2016, rather than the traditional month of August. It is expected that the winner will be announced in late summer or early fall of this year.

Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus:

All three cities are located in the electorally vital swing state of Ohio, a state that sitting President Barack Obama won in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said in a news release that the state’s Republican leaders will help support Ohio cities’ bids. “The road to the White House runs through Ohio,” Borges said. “Not only does Ohio have three world-class cities capable of hosting a national convention, but bringing one here would put our candidate and party’s message directly in front of voters.”

But, Columbus is also pushing to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “I believe Columbus, Ohio, can hold the key to winning Ohio in 2016,” former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland told Politico reporters Thursday at an event held by leaders of the state’s Democratic party. “That’s got to be our goal.” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern added that the Democratic nominee would benefit from the “free media” the convention would bring. “The national campaign will save $20 million if they choose Ohio,” he said. “I think, quite frankly, if the Democrats choose Ohio for the convention, we win the presidency.”

City leaders of St. Louis, Austin, Kansas City, Portland, Chicago, and Tampa have already said they have no interesting in holding the Democrat convention.


Denver is located in another classic battleground state, Colorado, which Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 elections, although by a slightly smaller margin in the most recent election. The city, which hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2008, would be “a smart choice for the coronation of the GOP presidential nominee,” from a strategic point of view, wrote the Denver Press Editorial Board in a Thursday column. “After decades of voting for Republican presidential candidates (with only a couple exceptions), the state has cast its lot with Democrat Barack Obama for the last two elections. This is the kind of place the GOP should use to test-drive its turn-around strategy.”

The board was also quick to point out that the city has the necessary convention amenities and a “downtown full of restaurants, museums, and other diversions.”

“It has been heartening to see the Democratic mayor, governor and two U.S. senators join forces with Republicans to pursue the event, which would bring 50,000 delegates and others to the city, along with 17,000 journalists,” concluded the editorial board. “It would be a political gathering extraordinaire. Bring it. Denver’s got game.”

Kansas City

Dallas and Phoenix

Both Dallas and Phoenix, as well as Las Vegas, are large cities in states with growing Hispanic populations, a demographic that is not only essential to securing the oval office but whose vote the GOP has had much difficulty attracting in the past few elections.

Dallas — the third largest city in Texas, a bastion of modern social conservatism — has hosted a national convention once before: the 1984 Republican National Convention, where President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were nominated for re-election.

Both Dallas and Phoenix, being situated firmly in conservative territory, would be relatively safe choices for the convention. But for Phoenix, the question is whether Arizona’s Senate Bill 1062 — a bill that would have allowed business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay or lesbian customers — will influence the GOP committee’s decision. The state’s party leaders say no, citing Governor Jan Brewer’s recent veto of the bill. “I think that people understand that what matters is the overall record of a state and we have a great record. We have a very diverse state. That’s what people are going to look at, not at any individual one vote,” Phoenix Councilman Bill Gates told the Associated Press.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas — home to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), which owns The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas strip — is considered to be a top contender. For one, the city’s bid will likely receive deep consideration because of the involvement of Adelson, who was the biggest contributor to Republican super political action committees in 2012. His spokesman Ron Reese told USA Today: “Like our colleagues, we think Las Vegas has the best facilities and capabilities and would be a great place to hold the convention, and we’ll do everything we can to bring it here.”

Still, the Republican party is expected to show some reservations about Las Vegas because of the city’s reputation for sin. “Las Vegas is a terrible idea for the RNC convention,” tweeted conservative blogger Melissa Clouthier on Thursday. “100s of opposition researchers following idiot GOP-ers around. No.”

Of course, Vegas does have the capacity to absorb a massive influx of politicians and reporters.

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