New Orleans, Houston, Cleveland and St. Petersburg, Fla., are in a four-way race to become the site of the 1992 Republican National Convention.

The GOP's nine-member site-selection committee recently visited the four cities, which so far are the only ones to have bid to host the convention, and "were delighted" with what they saw, according to Republican National Committee (RNC) press secretary Leslie Goodman.

Goodman said there is still the "possibility of of a West Coast bid," namely San Diego. Until then, the committee will evaluate cities that have made bids and make its recommendation to the full RNC in January.

The word from some who visited the cities is that none is without problems.

Houston, President Bush's "hometown," may not agree to give the Republicans the six weeks of availability to the Astrodome the RNC has requested.

In Cleveland, Republicans face, as did the Democrats before them, a shortage of hotel space.

The committee raised questions about the financial package New Orleans, host to the 1988 GOP convention, and Louisiana were offering for meeting RNC requirements.

While holding the convention in Florida, a state where the party has made big gains, is attractive to Republicans, St. Petersburg has limited first-class hotel rooms, and there is a question how it would provide the 350,000 square feet of space required for the news media.

The city has proposed erecting the world's largest air-conditioned tent over a parking lot adjacent to the convention center as media work space. Another possibility is giant trailers.

Hoping to impress his GOP visitors with St. Petersburg's friendliness, Mayor Robert Ulrich took them to dinner. While they were dining, the mayor's car was stolen.