Updated at 6:30 p.m.
Eight cities are fighting for the chance to host the Republican National Convention in 2016, an honor that can mean up to 40,000 visitors ready to spend millions of dollars. A report done by the City of Tampa after it hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention showed that the total economic impact of the event was over $427 million. Even with the roughly $50 million a city would need to raise to put forward a competitive bid, the pay off is enough to make it clear why cities are ready to put in the hard work to invite over the political obsessives they spend the rest of the year complaining about.
But which city is most worthy to host in 2016? Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus told reporters in D.C. Monday that their chief concern while listening to pitches Monday is to find a place that can raise the money, provide ample security and easy transportation, keep the delegates happy and give the eventual nominee that much needed bump in the polls. The party is also planning to hold the convention in June or mid-July instead of September, so they need to find a city that won't have a problem doing that, especially if sports play-offs are happening. Then, they might worry about picking a city that gives them the most political advantage, although the GOP hasn't won a state where they held a convention since 1992 in Houston. Here's a guide to each city's history with the Republican Party, to illuminate which destination has the most political pedigree — if not the best chance to win.
Cleveland had wanted to host the Republican National Convention in 1976, but a lack of hotel rooms had them offering to put delegates up in houseboats on Lake Erie, which did not impress the site choosing committee. This year, Brent Larkin at the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that as far as the 2016 Republican National Convention goes, "losing out to Columbus would be humiliating and inexcusable."
Cleveland last hosted the Republican National Convention in 1924, when the party nominated Calvin Coolidge. Fifteen thousand people were expected to attend, 10,000 being spectators and 586 being "newspapermen." One group tried to get the party to adopt an anti-Ku Klux Klan platform, but were not successful in getting enough votes. That year, 1924, was also the first year the party tried to give women equal representation among the delegates. One hundred and eighteen of the 1,109 delegates were women.
The 1924 convention was also the first to be broadcast on the radio.
Cuyahoga County, which houses Cleveland, is 69 percent Democratic. Ohio is often labeled the swing state to watch during presidential elections. No Republican presidential candidates has ever won the White House without Ohio.
Eight former presidents were born in Ohio, but only one was born in a city currently trying to host the 2016 Republican convention. William Howard Taft, a Republican and the 27th president of the United States, was born in Cincinnati in 1857. One of Taft's sons served as mayor of Cincinnati, the other served as a U.S. senator. The city also elected Jerry Springer mayor in 1977.
Cincinnati hosted the 1876 Republican National Convention, which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes, who is from Ohio.
Barack Obama became the first president to win Hamilton County — which houses Cincinnati — since 1964.
Columbus is the third city in Ohio trying to host the Republican convention in 2016. Mayor Michael B. Coleman said "merely by competing is a statement to the nation and the world that Columbus is ready for prime time ... and shows the world Columbus has swagger."
The nonprofit JobsOhio has pledged $10 million to help pay for a convention if any of the three cities in Ohio bidding wins, which may give them a leg up in the competition. Columbus is the most populous city in Ohio, and is also much further along in the bidding process than Cleveland or Cincinnati.
Columbus hasn't hosted any Republican National Conventions.
The Denver Post, last week, laid out the case for its home city as a convention location:
Colorado also has appealing symbolic value to the RNC. Once reliably red, it has leaned Democratic in the past two presidential elections because of an influx of young, educated coastal professionals and a growing Hispanic voting population. Those are two groups Republicans are trying to win back. And Republicans would be nominating their presidential candidate in the same place Barack Obama was picked to head the Democratic ticket in 2008.
As the state GOP chair put it, holding the 2016 Republican convention in Denver would make the series of Colorado conventions "bookends of eight years of an Obama regime." Between 2000 and 2012, Colorado's Latino population grew by 42 percent, which has moderated the once red state while also making it an alluring place for Republicans to try to claim back.
Kansas City, Mo. previously hosted the 1928 and 1976 Republican National Conventions. Ernest Hemingway, who wrote for the Kansas City Star, wandered around the 1928 one that nominated Herbert Hoover. Why Kansas City? According to an account in The New York Times,
Kansas City is on the very edge of the great open spaces where men are men and Republican farmers are discontents. What better assurance could be given these men-men (and farm women over 21 also) that the Republican Party was keenly interested in their welfare and was not under the domination of those effete Eastern industrialists and financiers whose hearts are supposed to be cold to the desite of the embattled farmers of the West to overcome the ills which have beset them for a long period? ... These, at least, are the reasons attributed to him in calling on the National Committee to choose Kansas City.
People were worried about sizzling "to death in the terrific Summer sun" and about the city's lack of hotel rooms, but all turned out alright enough in the end. The city raised hotel prices before the impending rush, which upset some of the visiting delegates. Ewing Herbert from Hiawatha, Kansas said, "I'm not going to pay $8 a night for a hotel room. I'll go to the farmers' camps and sleep. That's where I belong anyway."
Speaking of the aforementioned farm women over 21, the RNC also bragged that women would play a larger role at the 1928 convention than they ever had before. Most states were expected to send equal proportions of male and female delegates, and women were predicted to "get some actual political power in lieu of the teas and complimentary votes they have had at previous national conventions."
In the 1976 Republican National Convention, President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan faced off in a messy last-minute battle for the nomination. A news story at the time quoted attendees as saying, "'If nobody sews up the nomination ahead of time, it could be the most interesting convention in years,' said a Ford partisan. 'There's a terribly grisly convention coming up,' predicted a Reagan advocate. 'It looks like blood on the moon.'" The impending crowd was also worried that the setting for the battle would be far more boring than the action itself: "After all, why would anyone voluntarily visit a place once called 'the capital of cowtowns'?"
The 2009 Gallup data has Missouri at 49 percent Democratic or leaning Democratic, and the state was once known for being a bellwether for the presidential popular vote. Dave Weigel quoted one Democratic state senator in 2012 who said, “We’re in new territory. The fact is that we are getting to be seen as a red state, that we’re more like Kansas.”
Dallas was supposed to present its bid to the RNC Monday along with all the other potential convention locations, but the blizzard postponed the date to March 21 along with Las Vegas and Cincinnati's presentation. Toni Anne Dashiell, the RNC's Texas delegate, told the Dallas Morning News, “Every Texan that I have talked to — now of course these are Republicans – would love to see the convention come to Texas. We are a Republican state. We have two living presidents right now, and one right there in Dallas.”
Dallas hosted the 1984 Republican National Convention, which celebrated the reelection campaign of Ronald Reagan. For tour buses carting the delegates around, "the two most requested stops [were] Dealey Plaza, downtown site of the Kennedy assassination, and Southfork, the ranch home of television's Ewing family 'Dallas'" according to a UPI article that year. In November 1983, less than a year before the convention, the city hosted a 20th anniversary ceremony of the JFK assassination, and many city officials worried that the media that would descend upon the city the following year would have nothing nice to say about the city. One political consultant said, ''The national press has never loved Dallas. There's no guarantee you come out of a convention looking good.''
Prior to the convention's start date, planners rode a pack of circus elephants around the city. They also planned to run trail drives through Dallas. As John Ball of The Texas Longhorn Breeders' Association explained it,
We're going to move 'em up and down the river, down past the Reunion Tower, turn around and trail 'em back." We see trouble here, frankly, considering that between livestock and nominating conventions you end up with pretty much the same thing, and we do hope everybody manages to keep things straight at the gate. "Yea, Mr. Chairman." "Nay, Mr. Chairman." "Moooooooo."
Texas has voted for the Republican presidential candidate since 1980. The state is 38 percent Latino, a demographic the Republican Party has been trying to attract for decades.
Las Vegas is considered the front-runner thus far, which makes sense when you see the swanky Web site they've already built. The city has been the top convention destination for 19 years, and the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party told The Washington Post, “There’s a pretty broad consensus that Las Vegas is the most logical choice.” But does the city's political history pass the test, too? Nevada voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and for Bush in 2000 and 2004. The state has a Latino population of 27 percent. One of the biggest Republican donors, Sheldon Adelson, is CEO of Las Vegas Sands, based in Nevada. Las Vegas Sands operates a convention center in Las Vegas. Adelson has been among the people pushing the party to go to Las Vegas in 2016. Ana Navarro, who co-chaired John McCain's Hispanic Advisory council in 2008 wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in January explaining why the GOP should consider Las Vegas:
Las Vegas is loud, tacky, excessive, bright and fun. It wouldn't kill the Republican Party to show America that we are capable of having a little fun. Are Republicans so tightly wound that we can't go to Las Vegas because it's too risqué? Good God, I hope not. Plenty of religious folks attend a Republican Convention. They can pray for the rest of us and maybe save a few souls. Sin City wouldn't mind a blessing or two. What's the worst that can happen? That a few delegates or G.O.P. big whigs end up doing a little sinning of their own? That John McCain is spotted at 2 a.m. by the roulette tables? It's not a problem -- what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Did I mention, it has no hurricanes?
The city has never hosted a national convention.
The big question everyone has been thinking about with the Arizona capital's convention bid is if the recent controversy over SB 1062, the bill that sought to protect businesses who refused to serve LGBT customers from lawsuits, will affect their bid. Preibus said Monday that it wouldn't, and that Gov. Jan Brewer was making the best decision she had to make for Arizona. The Arizona GOP chair told reporters the same thing last week, “If anything, they want to have a fantastic venue and a city that has transportation and resources to support the venue. Phoenix is most definitely capable of doing that.”
In the last presidential election cycle, another piece of state legislation — the anti-immigration law SB 1070 — cast a pallor over the city's bid for the national convention. The Arizona Republic asked political scientist Larry Sabato about the state's chances this year: “I don’t think the Republican Party is going to want to be associated with them, because it just brings up all the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-Martin Luther King Day stories — they live forever. I kind of doubt it, but if Arizona made a fantastic financial offer, they might do it.” The city has never hosted a Republican National Convention.
The state has voted for Republican presidential candidates since Eisenhower — taking a brief break in 1996 before returning to form — and is likely intriguing to the GOP heads because of its growing Latino population. According to 2012 Census data, the state is 30 percent Latino. As Aaron Blake explained last week, the state's current political activities have certainly shown Arizona is fighting for the title of reddest state of them all.
Correction: An earlier draft of this article said that in 2008, Colorado voted for the Democratic presidential nominee for the first time since 1936. Although Colorado has voted for Republican candidates a majority of the time, They have voted for Democrats a few times since 1936, like with Bill Clinton in 1992.