Vegas, Cincinnati end bids for 2016 GOP convention. Who's front-runner now?

Las Vegas and Cincinnati, withdrawing their bids, won't play host to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Four cities remain in the running, all in the nation's midsection.

Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Reuters/File
Las Vegas Strip casinos are seen from the 550 foot-tall High Roller observation wheel, the tallest in the world, in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 9, 2014. Las Vegas has withdrawn its bid to host the 2016 GOP convention.

Las Vegas has withdrawn its bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. So has Cincinnati, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced May 22. That leaves four cities in the running: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City.

The final four will now receive site visits from the RNC as it winnows its choices for the party’s big quadrennial get-together.

“All cities excelled in nearly every aspect of their bids and presentation this year, but these four cities stood out from the field from the start of this process and deserve a deeper look by the full committee,” said Enid Mickelson, RNC Site Selection Committee chairwoman, in a statement.

The withdrawal of Las Vegas in particular is something of a surprise. The city had seemed the closest thing to a front-runner in the ongoing process. Its bid was backed by billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, for one thing. Its business community appeared united in its effort to land the RNC, for another. The depth of the interest could be seen in the slick “LV 2016” website they funded to promote the Vegas bid.

Of course, some Republicans have been nervous about the possibility of holding a convention in a city whose widely held nickname includes the word “sin.” (“Sin City,” remember?) Possible 2016 contender Mike Huckabee had pronounced the venue fine, saying even the Southern Baptist Convention has met in Las Vegas, but maybe that wasn’t enough.

Given the state of partisan competition in America, the GOP faced the prospect of a horde of camera-equipped Democratic operatives trolling the strip in search of Republican misbehavior.

Also, Dallas has been coming on hard. In the heart of red-leaning Texas, Dallas could easily raise the $60 million or more in private funds that the convention might require. Or at least it could more easily raise that daunting sum than its other competitors. The Dallas convention bureau says it already has $60 million in pledges in hand, for what it’s worth.

Thus it is possible that Las Vegas did not want to get into a bidding war with its rival to the south.

Cincinnati? Oh, you want to know what happened with its bid? Compared with other cities, Cincinnati was somewhat short on hotel rooms, for one thing. Many people would have had to stay across the Ohio River in Kentucky.

Handicapping the rest of the field, we'd say Denver is attractive to the party as another wealthy city. It also hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention that first nominated Barack Obama, so it could serve as a venue from which it would be easy for Republicans to talk about the end of an era and a need for a change.

Also, Colorado is a purple state the GOP would love to win in 2016.

Like Denver, Cleveland is in a swing state that Republican candidates covet. Kansas City is in Missouri (and Kansas), both more reliably GOP. It’s got great barbecue, though.

Conventional wisdom has long held that it’s important to pick a convention site that gives you the most perceived electoral advantage. That’s one big reason Democrats picked Charlotte, N.C., in 2012.

That didn’t work. Mitt Romney won there by several percentage points. And political scientists say that in general the conventional convention wisdom is flawed.

“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.

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