Dallas, Cleveland named finalists for 2016 Republican National Convention

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Just two cities remain in the sweepstakes to host the Republican Party’s next presidential nominating convention.

Republican National Committee members on Wednesday named two finalists: Dallas and Cleveland. The decision eliminates Denver and Kansas City, Missouri from the running.

Several cities have been competing for months to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which attracts thousands of political activists, donors and reporters every four years. RNC leaders are expected to select the winning convention site later this summer.

“I can say to my fellow Republicans that we should be excited for the 2016 convention,” said Enid Mickelsen, of Utah, who leads the RNC’s site selection committee. “These world class cities know how to roll out the welcome mat, and more importantly they have the ability to provide our next presidential nominee a launching pad that will put a Republican in the White House in 2016.”

Money is a key concern for Republican leaders charged with selecting the site. RNC officials who were forced to divert limited resources toward the last two conventions insist they cannot do so again. Most cities expect a convention price tag of between $55 million and $60 million.

Dallas has long been considered a major player in the competition, in part because of its coalition of wealthy donors with ties to the Bush family and the oil industry.

Political leaders often favor swing states, hoping the multi-day convention gives their candidate a political boost on Election Day. Texas, which last supported a Democrat for president in 1976, would not fit that mold. By contrast, Cleveland sits in perennial swing state Ohio, although the state has fewer major donors than Texas.

Officials are also focused on each city’s transportation and hotel plans following a 2012 Tampa convention in which many participants were forced into hotels an hour from the convention site.

Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges said he was thrilled, while highlighting the political advantages of hosting the convention in his state.

“The Cleveland host committee clearly demonstrated that Cleveland is the ideal location to host the convention,” he said. “We will continue to work with them to bring the convention to the nation’s most important political battleground.”

Wednesday’s decision disappointed some Democrats, who hoped the RNC would ultimately select Kansas City. Organizers there have been seeking assistance from the billionaire conservative donors, Charles and David Koch, who are based in nearby Wichita, Kansas. Democrats also hoped Republicans would select Las Vegas for its reliance on gambling and conservative mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

The timing of the next convention is a key element in the RNC’s plans to re-vamp its presidential selection process after losing the last two presidential contests.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wants the convention held in the early summer of 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm. That would give the GOP’s next presidential nominee quicker access to tens of millions of dollars in general election cash.

Democrats, meanwhile, continued on their own timeline for picking a venue.

On Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee said officials would visit all six remaining potential hosts: New York City; Philadelphia; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix, and Birmingham, Alabama.

Representatives of all six cities met with the DNC’s technical advisers this week and each cleared that hurdle. Now, DNC representatives will visit each city between now and early September to get an in-person sense of how the city might handle the crush of party dignitaries and activists.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to announce a host city either late this year or early in 2015.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.