Republicans have chosen New York City for their 2004 convention, making it likely that President Bush will be nominated for a second term in the place where catastrophe and heroism gave shape to his first.
"We believe New York will provide an outstanding backdrop to showcase our candidate and our party," said Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot. He also praised the runner-up cities -- Tampa and New Orleans.
It will be the first time the GOP has met in New York, long a bastion of the Democratic Party. In recent years, Manhattan's reputation as a cauldron of unionism, liberalism and libertinism has made it forbidden territory for Republicans, who favored instead the boom cities of the Sun Belt.
But the city is on its second consecutive GOP mayor, and Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, was just elected to his third term in a landslide.
"New York is exactly the right place for the president and for the Republican Party," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "The RNC is making history."
Bloomberg, a former Democrat, tried to entice both parties to hold their conventions in his city, but Democrats chose Boston. As the party out of power, the Democrats will meet first, during the week of July 26, 2004. Because of the timing of the Summer Olympic Games (they will be held Aug. 13-29), an unusually long period will separate the two conventions, with Republicans gathering the week of Aug. 30.
Veteran convention planners said the keys to a successful bid are all nuts and bolts and dollars and cents. New York's countless hotel rooms, fabulous restaurants, mass transportation network and crowd-tested police force mean the city can handle a convention without breaking a sweat, according to one planner of the 1992 Democratic convention in Manhattan.
"But you need to have a cooperative mayor, and now they have that," he added. For his part, Bloomberg made a point of saluting the cooperation of city labor unions in coaxing the GOP to town.
The symbolic value of the venue is harder to measure -- but in this case, it could be significant. By holding their convention at Madison Square Garden, Republicans will have many opportunities to weave the unifying themes of Sept. 11, 2001, and the inspiring sacrifice and resilience of city residents, into the picture they present to the voting public.
On a more subtle level, holding the convention in New York may allow the party to showcase some of its moderate, pro-choice elected officials without provoking the wrath of antiabortion party stalwarts. Pataki, Bloomberg and former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani all support abortion rights -- and as hosts, all can be expected to play high-profile roles.
"By default, you'll be putting Northeastern Republicans on television in prime time, and that's a good thing" for a party trying to present an inclusive image, said Republican James Spears, a Washington lawyer.
By choosing New York, Republicans passed up a chance to put the convention in the state that was so critical to the 2000 election. Insiders said that Tampa made a strong push for the convention, but that some senior Republicans worried a convention in Florida would encourage too many memories of the president's controversial victory.