The scene on the Las Vegas strip that could greet the GOP’s next presidential nominee (Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Darrin Bush)

The Republican National Committee on Thursday named eight cities as finalists for its 2016 convention.

After accepting bids from dozens of potential applicants, the committee will choose between Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a tweet.

A site selection committee, elected at an RNC meeting in Washington last month, will evaluate bids from the eight finalists. At stake for the winning city: Up to 40,000 visitors, millions of dollars in economic activity and the national spotlight when Republicans gather to formally nominate a presidential candidate.

At an RNC meeting last month in Washington, five cities running some of the most active campaigns plied members with popcorn, free drinks and gift bags, all aimed at winning over fans. All five of the cities that pitched the RNC — Kansas City, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Columbus — made the final cut.

Left out, however, were two cities thought to be in the running: Charlotte, which hosted the 2012 Democratic convention, and Salt Lake City, which was a finalist to host the 2012 Republican convention that eventually went to Tampa.

Las Vegas appears to be the early front-runner. In conversations with current and former members of the RNC, none voiced support for any city outside their home state, except for Sin City.

“Other than Vegas, you can’t find a state that has vocal supporters from other states,” Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told The Washington Post last month. “There’s a pretty broad consensus that Las Vegas is the most logical choice.”

The site selection committee will make its choice, in large part, based on which city is best able to raise the tens of millions of dollars required to put on the four or five days of events. Money has been an issue for several recent host cities; the host committee in Charlotte, which hosted the Democratic convention in 2012, wound up owing vendors several million dollars months after President Obama won reelection.

But there are other factors to consider as well: One Democratic elected official rooting for his hometown noted that, with Republicans planning to hold their convention in June or July of 2016, sports teams could get in the way. Playoffs for both the NBA and the NHL will be happening by then, and no owner will willingly give up his arena, and the revenue a playoff game generates, for the six weeks it takes to build the stage on which an eventual nominee will accept his or her party’s nomination. The official, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about his city’s prospects, said he thought that meant his hometown, which has professional sports teams, would be out of the running.

The Democratic National Committee has yet to name its own site selection committee. Earlier this month, the DNC sent a preliminary letter soliciting bids to about three dozen cities, CNN reported this week.

The DNC is kicking off its winter meeting this week in Washington, where cities eager for Democratic business in 2016 will start making their pitches. Columbus is hosting a cocktail reception Thursday night for DNC members.