DALLAS, TX (TIP): Dallas leaders finalized the city’s bid Tuesday, February 25, for the 2016 Republican convention – an ambitious plan hatched quietly only a few weeks ago. They offered few details and shunned any sort of fanfare with Wednesday’s bid deadline approaching. Rival cities took a different approach.
Some have wined and dined GOP leaders for a year, and boosters strutted their political and logistical advantages in promotional videos and rallies. Dallas leaders shrugged off the chest-thumping. They insisted that their ability to raise copious donations, offer convenient lodging and provide a great venue, the American Airlines Center, would trump such frills.
“Several activities are taking place behind the scenes,” said Phillip Jones, president and chief executive of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The Dallas of today is a surprising city to the many millions of visitors we see every year, and we believe that element of surprise can work in our favor in this situation as well.” The city’s bid book was shipped to Washington on Tuesday, he said, and will be hand-delivered to GOP headquarters before the deadline on Wednesday.
He declined to release a copy. A nine-member site-selection committee – members of the Republican National Committee from around the country – will hear hour long presentations Monday from Dallas, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. “It’s going to be our job to ask a whole lot of questions. I’m not prejudiced for or against any city at this point,” said selection committee member Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. Las Vegas is widely seen as a front-runner, perhaps the stiffest competitor for Dallas, which hosted the GOP in 1984. Some Republicans have expressed qualms about the gambling and other unseemly activities in the Nevada city, but Scheffler said he’s keeping an open mind. “If people want to use the word ‘sin city’ … you can find sin anyplace, you know,” he said.
Vegas boosters are counting on that city’s unmatched tourism infrastructure. Only Dallas comes close, with far fewer hotel rooms but enough to hold every delegate within 3 miles of the American Airlines Center. That’s a huge issue for Republicans, with memories of 2012 fiascos in Tampa, Fla., still fresh. Iowa delegates, for instance, got stuck on buses for more than five hours at one point. Even when traffic and security weren’t snarled, they endured 90-minute commutes from hotel to arena. “A lot of delegates were out in Timbuktu,” said Scheffler, adding that he’ll be looking for the host city “that has the most pluses.” Cities in Ohio, Colorado and Nevada emphasize that their states are presidential battlegrounds.
Texas’ role as a GOP stronghold could help Dallas, though. The winner can expect 50,000 delegates, journalists, protesters and others, along with $200 million or more in local economic impact. GOP officials have said they want the event to be held in late June or early July of 2016, earlier in the summer than recent conventions. The host city is expected to raise at least $50 million. That shouldn’t be a problem in Dallas, a major source of GOP campaign cash, boosters say. Of Dallas’ many advantages, time isn’t one of them. Other cities have been preparing the groundwork for months, in Washington and at home.
In Dallas, most City Council members learned only a week ago that the mayor and others were pursuing the convention, when The Dallas Morning News reported that Mayor Mike Rawlings and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison were issuing invitations to join the host committee. Membership of that committee remains a closely guarded secret. Kansas City started wooing GOP leaders a year ago. On Monday the mayor and others ceremoniously signed the city’s bid at a rally featuring 100 flag-waving residents and a backdrop that read: “All roads lead to here.”Denver leaders also held a news conference Monday. They’ll present their bid in leather cases reminiscent of a cowboy saddle bags. They boast that their city has proven it can host such an event, because it did the 2008 Democratic convention that nominated Barack Obama.