Dallas brought a promise of $40 million and Las Vegas brought decades of experience hosting conventions. Cincinnati? Graeter’s ice cream, Montgomery Inn ribs, and two different types of Cincinnati chili.
The last of the eight cities interested in hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention gave their presentations Friday to the Republican National Committee’s nine-member site selection committee. Now, the winnowing down begins.
“It’s extraordinary,” said Enid Mickelsen, chair of the Republican National Committee’s site selection committee. “I don’t think there has been this much interest in a bid in many, many election cycles.”
Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati have all put in bids to host, and RNC officials were reluctant to say whether having three Ohio cities in the mix increased or decreased Ohio’s chances of hosting a convention in 2016. But they appeared unswayed by the cities’ assertions that Ohio should host because it is a swing state.
“I mean, I think it’s wonderful that all three of these cities are interested in having a Republican Convention, but as you know, there’s not a great history turning states for a particular party just based on where the convention is held,” said RNC chair Reince Priebus.
Columbus and Cleveland offered their bid presentations to the RNC earlier this month. Columbus has proposed hosting the convention at Nationwide Arena with additional workspace at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Cleveland, meanwhile, has proposed hosting a convention at the Quicken Loans Arena.
Kansas City, Denver and Phoenix have also submitted bids.
Though Mickelsen insisted that there was “no front-runner,” some observers have given an advantage to Las Vegas and Dallas. Las Vegas has unfettered access to hotel rooms and billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s money, and Dallas has already banked $40 million to state its case.
Still, Western & Southern Financial Group Chairman John Barrett, chair of the Cincinnati Host Committee, remained confident following his organization’s presentation to the RNC.
“They leaked it to us on the way out, I think it’s ours, we won,” Barrett joked.
In addition to good chili and ribs, Cincinnati offers “walkability” and a city in the middle of a renaissance, according to Barrett.
“We mix the old with the new, the quaint with the modern,” he said. “It’s just happening right now and it’s one of the liveliest cities in the country.”
Money would not be a problem, Barrett said. The city already has raised $15 million – and that’s without the host committee soliciting money, he said. The Cincinnati-area 45243 ZIP code is one of the highest-concentrated ZIPs in the nation for GOP donors.
“Financing it will be the least of our problems,” Barrett said. “Winning it will be our biggest problem. And if we get it, we’ll get the money that we need.”
Las Vegas backers, too, said they would not have a problem raising money. But it has battled its reputation as “Sin City” enough that one member of the host committee touted the city’s churches in a press availability after the RNC meeting.
Dallas, meanwhile, came to Washington, D.C. with a liability. Its arena also hosts the Dallas Mavericks, which may limit what dates it can hold the event. Priebus had suggested July 18 or June 27 as potential convention start dates, but if the Mavericks make it to the NBA Finals in 2016, or even deep into the playoffs, the June 27 date could be a problem. The Finals typically begin around the first week of June, and Preibus said the committee would need at least five weeks to adequately prepare the convention site.
Mickelsen, however, said some convention construction could be done off-site.
She said the next step for the committee is to narrow the list to a few cities for site visits. It plans to pick finalists by late spring and present a recommendation to the full RNC by its August meeting.
“We have a lot of strong packages to consider,” she said.