This story was first published in the March 16 issue of The Sunday, a sister publication of the Sun.
As Las Vegas and seven other cities prepare their presentations to become the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention, pundits are speculating which city the party will choose.
Will Republicans head for the Southwest, the newest swing section of the country, where Phoenix and Las Vegas are trying to one-up each other on logistics and demographics to become host? Or will the GOP pick one of three prospects in Ohio, which no Republican has won the presidency without carrying? Or will experience give Denver, Dallas and Kansas City the edge?
With Las Vegas officials scheduled to present their pitch to the RNC on March 21,
The Sunday enters the speculation in March Madness style.
Pro: Swing state, decent hotel proximity to convention site, proved it could host a convention in 2008 (Democrats).
Con: Republicans will draw comparisons to that epic Obama show, and can’t pack a stadium like he did.
Pro: Good mix of hotel rooms/infrastructure; last time it hosted was in 1984, a landslide win for Ronald Reagan.
Con: State will likely vote GOP regardless of whether the convention is there; entertainment options may be boring.
Pro: Decent infrastructure.
Con: Fights in the Arizona Legislature over LGBT rights and court battles over the state’s stringent immigration law could prompt the GOP to look elsewhere to avoid those made-for-attack-ad issues.
Pro: Swing-state location with good hotel proximity and entertainment options; proven track record of holding thousands of conventions per year; predictable weather.
Con: Image of “What happens here, stays here.”
Pro: In the middle of the country, which is good for travel logistics; hosted the 1976 convention.
Con: Not enough hotel rooms, which could deep-six it given fresh memories of Tampa’s transportation snafus.
Pro: In Ohio
Con: Latest of three Ohio cities to jump into the fray; tough to pitch a city on the Kentucky border vs. one in the heart of the swing state and another that boasts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Pro: In Ohio; home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which could help the GOP loosen up its image.
Con: Lost in 1976 because of hotel room shortage so severe organizers suggested putting delegates up in houseboats.
Pro: The swingiest part of the quintessential swing state; first Ohio city to throw its hat into the ring.
Con: Difficult to fly into; not enough hotel rooms; other Ohio cities’ entries have split the field.
FINAL FOUR (PLUS ONE?)
Dallas vs. Denver — we can't pick: The only real difference might be that Denver is in a swing state, while Dallas is not. But Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 might dissuade the GOP from showing up.
Las Vegas vs. Phoenix — Las Vegas: We weren’t the ones trotting cowboy-themed showgirls out at the RNC’s winter meeting to sell the city’s convention bona fides. That was Phoenix.
Kansas City vs. Cincinnati — KC: Kansas City is a bigger city with a more diverse urban environment. Plus, it started bidding months before any other city, hoping to resurrect the spirit of ’76.
Cleveland vs. Columbus — Columbus: Columbus is bigger, and it’s been trying harder and longer to win the bid. Plus, swingy central Ohio looks like the GOP’s ideal America more than pretty liberal Cleveland.
We agree with the RNC that four of the cities that made strong, serious bids to host the convention are viable finalists: Kansas City, Columbus, Denver and, of course, Las Vegas. But we’ll bet on Dallas as a fifth player over Phoenix. We can’t see Phoenix besting the other Western candidates. Sorry, Arizona (and please still play nice with us on the Interstate 11 proposal to link Phoenix and Las Vegas). Past that, the decision is going to depend on what the GOP decides to prioritize in 2016: a political message, a point on the electoral map or a good party. Everything being equal, we’d bet on the West, which has the candidate cities most able to put on a big show, in a time zone that will satisfy the national networks and not mess with anyone’s bedtimes. But it’s in the hands of the RNC’s site selectors, so we’ll just have to wait and see.