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Columbus mayor in D.C. making pitch to land Republican convention

Now here was a sales pitch with a twist: A Democrat who enthusiastically supports President Barack Obama urging a room of Republicans to hold their 2016 national convention in Columbus.

But that is exactly what Mayor Michael Coleman was doing Wednesday night in a posh hotel in downtown Washington. Complete with a performance by the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Coleman planned to tell Republicans that holding their convention in Columbus would give them “a leg up when it comes to moving Ohio’’ into the victory column in the 2016 presidential race.

“We’re serious about this,’’ Coleman said during the first day of the gathering of the nation’s mayors in Washington. “I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat (convention). What I care about is that we have a convention that will take our city to heights we have never been before. We have to think bigger as a community and then perform bigger.’’

“This is for the city,’’ Coleman said, adding that a major party convention will allow Columbus to “break through the glass ceiling in two or three days. Every news media in the world is going to be here. We’ll be the center of media attraction and conversation.’’

“If we do it right, the benefit to our community far exceeds any single event that I can think of — both economically and reputation- wise — around the nation and around the globe.’’

Last November in New Orleans, Coleman delivered a similar pitch before the association of state Democratic chairs. He has argued that the Nationwide Arena would be ideal for a convention gathering and that Central Ohio has plenty of hotel rooms. And when asked where he would find the $50 million in private money needed to help finance the effort, he dismissed that as no problem.

The only drawback is the lack of direct flights to Port Columbus. But Coleman cryptically said, “We are working on something right now with respect to direct flights.’’

But more importantly, he is talking politics. And here is one pitch: No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

“I am going to remind them as well in 2012 that the presidential and vice presidential candidates visited Columbus 77 times,’’ Coleman said. “Not the state. Columbus. And there is a reason for that. The reason … is where Ohio goes, the White House goes. Central Ohio plays a major role in that determination.’’

Many of the leading Republicans in Ohio volunteered as co-hosts for last night’s event, although not all of them could attend. They included Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman, Reps. Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township and Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington, and Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

Borges attended last night’s event. Stivers wanted to attend, but had National Guard duty. Portman is traveling to Switzerland. Kasich did not go either, although it would have been politically awkward because Cleveland is bidding for a 2016 national convention.

“Ohio is very fortunate to have two legitimate cities in the mix for this and the governor supports both of their efforts,’’ said Rob Nichols, a Kasich spokesman. “But we love all our children equally.’’

As for the jazz orchestra? “I want to get their attention and you don’t get their attention with a slide show,’’ Coleman said.

Read more about Ohio’s efforts to land a party convention and the history of the five previous conventions held in Ohio here.

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