Republican National Convention finalists: Which city is front-runner?

The Republican National Committee has announced finalists for the 2016 GOP national convention, and no fewer than three Ohio cities make the list, along with rivals in the South and West.

Susan Walsh/AP/File
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Washington, Jan. 24, 2014. Priebus on Thursday announced the finalist cities for the 2016 GOP national convention, and has said he wants to hold the convention in June or July, as opposed to the traditional August.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus on Thursday announced the finalist cities for the 2016 GOP national convention. Long story short, it’s Ohio versus rivals in the South and West for the economic and publicity benefits of hosting this big party presidential confab.

That’s because the list contains no fewer than three Ohio cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. (What, Akron’s busy that month?) The list is filled out by Denver; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; Phoenix; and Las Vegas. Yes, Las Vegas, a place occasionally described as “Sin City.” In fact, the early handicapping makes Las Vegas the pundit favorite to win the nod.

In part, that’s because Las Vegas should have little problem pulling together the money needed to ready for the influx of the RNC and its conventioneers. It can call upon such donors as billionaire gambling impresario Sheldon Adelson, who has given millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes.

Vegas also has ample hotel space within a mile or so of the proposed venue, the Las Vegas Convention Center. Smaller cities can struggle with the scale of a national political convention, with some state delegations and media exiled to rooms far from the madding crowd (we’re looking at you, Charlotte, N.C., host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention). For Las Vegas, the GOP might not even be its biggest convention customer of the month.

RNC chair Priebus has said he wants to hold the convention in June or July, as opposed to the traditional August. This might also help Las Vegas, as its average August temperature tops 100 degrees. There is that temptation issue, however.

“Las Vegas is a terrible idea for the RNC convention,” tweeted popular conservative blogger Melissa Clouthier on Thursday. “100s of opposition researchers following idiot GOP-ers around. No.”

As for Ohio, its advantage is obvious. It’s America’s premier swing state, and conventional (groan) political wisdom holds that a national party gains an edge in states where it holds its quadrennial nominating celebration.

Thus the three Ohio finalists. Maybe they could all win, and Republicans just roam the state in a caravan over a week, visiting each in turn?

Denver is also in a purple state that’s key to party electoral strategies. Kansas City ditto, though Missouri leans somewhat more GOP than does Colorado.

Dallas and Phoenix would be safe choices in safe Republican territory.

Democrats chose Charlotte in 2012 in large part because they hoped it would help put North Carolina in play. It didn’t seem to have that effect: Mitt Romney won there by several percentage points.

In general, the conventional wisdom isn’t true, according to some political scientists. There’s no hard evidence that the location of the party conventions affects the presidential vote.

“Generally, parties do not derive significant electoral benefits in states selected to host the national convention,” concluded University of Maine political scientist Richard Powell in a 2004 journal article that looked at presidential elections from 1932 to 2000.

Candidates do get a bump in their home states, however, according to this study. So if the GOP really wants to win Ohio, maybe it should pick the state’s GOP governor, John Kasich, as its nominee, instead of packing hundreds of people in funny hats into a Cleveland arena.

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