Tampa nabs 2012 Republican convention. Er, congratulations?

A GOP site selection team announced Wednesday that Tampa, Fla., is the pick for the 2012 Republican convention. While many cities benefit from hosting a convention, some have found pitfalls.

Paul Sancya/AP/File
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. on Sept. 4, 2008. Republicans choose Tampa as the site of their 2012 presidential convention, hoping the swing state of Florida will help them defeat President Barack Obama.

And the winner is …


… or is it the loser?

The Republican National Committee’s site selection team announced Wednesday that Tampa, Fla., is its pick for the 2012 Republican convention.

That should bring lots of revenue, tourists, and attention to the Gulf Coast city, right? Er, it might also mean lost investments, protests, and lingering lawsuits.

But the RNC isn't concerned about that. It just wants a warm, sunny place to throw a party for its party for four days in 2012. So, like many fun-loving college kids, it chose Tampa.

It’s not hard to see why.

As a battleground state, “Florida is a valuable commodity to any party,” says Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

And the competition wasn’t exactly fierce.

Phoenix, now known as the capital of the state that just passed America’s toughest immigration law, doesn’t quite send the welcoming vibe Republicans are looking for.

And Salt Lake City may be too white, too Mormon, for a party that’s trying to diversify its ranks (hello Michael Steele).

Surely, the lavish wining and dining that local Republicans treated the 12-member site selection committee to in March didn’t hurt.

If the RNC affirms the Tampa pick in August, the 2012 RNC convention will be held at the St. Pete Times Forum – bringing tens of thousands of visitors, hundreds of millions of dollars, and one big challenge to city planners scrambling to raise funds, beef up security, and manage logistics.

National political conventions are fickle guests, never letting on whether they’ll trash their host city (remember Chicago’s riot-marred 1968 convention?) or boost its reputation (the DNC’s 1988 convention put Atlanta on the world stage).

So are conventions a boost or a bust for host cities?

The bottom line, says Mr. Hess of Brookings, is, well, the bottom line.

“Cities always think they’re benefiting, or they wouldn’t put their hat in the ring. Whether they benefit or not depends in part on the balance sheet: How much does it cost them versus how much business do they bring in?”

The Tampa convention would cost the city about $100 million, according to The Tampa Tribune, citing the host committee.

The host committee estimates the event will bring in more than $150 million.

The 2008 DNC convention in Denver generated $266 million in spending there, according to one study.

But the previous DNC convention – the 2004 show in Boston – cost Boston $8 million in lost productivity due to the closure of a major highway.

Money aside, Tampa will have to figure out how to house, feed, and secure the roughly 50,000 party delegates, media employees, and visitors who’ll descend upon their streets in 2012.

And then there are the protests – the ugly side of glitzy conventions that any city tries to hide. Philadelphia spent four years dealing with court cases and lawsuits involving protesters arrested during the 2000 RNC.

Then again, conventions bring host cities lots of attention.

The RNC convention is basically a giant infomercial for the GOP, and Tampa is hoping for it, too.


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