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Ohio’s 3 largest cities finalists for 2016 Republican convention

As Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus engage in competition to land one of the coveted national political conventions in 2016, former Gov. Ted Strickland said last night that no other state has as many cities in the hunt.

“Most states may have one city that would be able to compete for such a convention,’’ Strickland said. “Ohio has three.’’

The high-profile national events could elevate Ohio’s already high political capital and mean hundreds of millions of dollars for a city’s economy.

In the aftermath of news Thursday that all three Ohio cities were among cities across the country trying to win the 2016 Republican National Convention, Strickland, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman were also hard at work trying to persuade Democrats to take a look at Columbus for their own 2016 convention.

In the aptly named Presidential Ballroom at a hotel in downtown Washington, they hosted a party for Democratic delegates from across the country. The room was adorned with huge convention signs with the word “Columbus,’’ and those who attended had their choice of wild mushroom sliders, crab cake sliders and four bars.

It was all part of an intense effort by Ohio officials obsessed with landing one of the two major conventions. They seem to figure if Ohio is so critical to presidential candidates in the November elections, it might be just as important for a convention site.

“The road to the White House is through Columbus,’’ Coleman, a Democrat said.

The last time Ohio hosted a political convention was in Cleveland in 1936 when Republicans nominated Alf Landon against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But unlike 1936, conventions are big business with Columbus officials saying it could pump as much as $200 million into the economy of the winning city.

Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus have joined Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Kansas City in trying to win the GOP convention. But hedging their bets, Cleveland and Columbus are also bidding for the Democratic convention.

The fact that three Ohio cities are bidding for the Republican convention “brings focus to Ohio,’’ Coleman said. “When you bring focus to Ohio you see the cities in Ohio. And I think Cincinnati is a great city and I think Cleveland is a great city and I think what they’ll see is we need to look at Ohio. It doesn’t hurt us I think it helps all of us.”

Strickland, who served one term as governor from 2007 through 2010, said he would be “happy if any of the Ohio cities got a convention obviously but I am here supporting the Columbus effort for the Democratic convention.’’

For the Republican convention, the winning city needs an arena which can hold 18,000 people, 40,000 square feet of office space and 16,000 first-class hotel rooms.

“We’re going to be competitive,’’ Coleman said. “We’re playing to win and that’s what this is all about. We want to win the convention tour so we’re going to do all the things we can do to get it.”

Republicans are already is considering several changes to the party’s presidential selection process to help give its nominee an advantage, including shortening the primary season and reducing the number of debates. GOP officials expect to hold their convention in the early summer of 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm.

Republicans plan to begin visiting potential sites later in the spring and will make their final pick by this fall.

Democrats have yet to identify potential convention sites.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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