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For GOP, Cleveland Rocks; Dallas Passed Over For 2016 Convention

Frank Librio
Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau
Dallas' red-carpet welcome last month wasn't enough to lure the 2016 Republican National Convention. The party will be in Cleveland.

The Republican National Committee chose Cleveland over Dallas on Tuesday morning to host its 2016 national convention. RNC chairman Reince Priebus made the announcement on Fox News shortly before 11 a.m.

He said the main reason was political: "As goes Ohio, so goes the presidential race," Priebus said.

Dallas and Cleveland last month were named the two remaining finalists to host the 2016 convention. Denver and Kansas City didn’t make the cut.

The announcement was made on Fox News.

Dallas said it already has more than $45 million of the $60 million lined up to host the convention -- more than Cleveland. But Cleveland said it came up with a way to hold a convention in June or July, which interests Republican officials.

The RNC and Cleveland will "enter into exclusive negotiations" on the convention. 

Reaction from Dallas

KERA's BJ Austin reports:

Dallas officials were disappointed with Tuesday’s announcement. But the RNC noted the strength of the Dallas bid, from its volunteers to facilities, said Kay Bailey Hutchison, the retired U.S. senator. She predicts that Dallas will host a future convention.

“You never want to be second,” Hutchison said. “But I think this has been a great effort that has been made by Dallas.”

“I’m very convinced that when people have seen Dallas, both in the mayors’ conference recently and the New Cities conference that was here recently, people are wowed by Dallas,” she added.

Phillip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Cleveland’s ability to host a convention earlier in the summer was an important factor. Dallas could only offer July because of the chance of American Airlines Center hosting playoffs for the Dallas Mavericks or Dallas Stars. In addition, many hotels are booked in June 2016.

“We hate to lose, it’s no fun coming in second,” he said. “But we did learn a lot.”

Dallas apparently isn’t the only city with lots of cash available to host the convention.

“Cleveland’s financial package ended up being comparable to what we were offering in Dallas,” Jones said. “They really went back and were able to up their game in terms of the commitments and the money that would be available to host a successful convention.” 

The Associated Press reports:

The Republicans' site selection committee backed Cleveland over Dallas and the full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said a specific start date for the convention has not been picked.

Paying for the convention was the top criterion for the 12-member site selection committee. The previous two GOP conventions have sapped party dollars during election years, and Priebus insisted the host city not leave the central party picking up the tab, which is expected to be around $60 million. ...

Dallas emerged as a major competitor, in part because of its coalition of wealthy donors with ties to the Bush family and the oil industry. Dallas hosted the 1984 Republican convention, and Texas is seen as a reliably GOP state in presidential elections.

But Cleveland has made an aggressive - and persuasive - pitch to host Republicans on the shores of Lake Erie.

Ohio is a perennially hard-fought state in presidential campaigns. No Republican has captured the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The last candidate to win the White House without Ohio was John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1960.

The RNC dispatched advisers to Cleveland last week for a second visit to review technical aspects of a potential convention there, officials said.

The RNC panel did not send a technical team back to Dallas.

Reaction from the RNC

“Cleveland is a phenomenal city, and I can’t think of a better place to showcase our party and our nominee in 2016," site selection chairwoman Enid Mickelsen said in a statement.  "This committee was tasked with difficult decisions and was presented with several strong options to host our convention. I’m confident Cleveland is the right pick for our next national convention. Cleveland has demonstrated they have the commitment, energy, and terrific facilities to help us deliver a history-making Republican convention. ... I extend my deepest gratitude to Dallas.  Dallas is a world class city with wonderful venues and fantastic people and I’m certain they’ll make a great host for our party in the future."

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement: “A Cleveland convention offers our party a great steppingstone to the White House in 2016, and I’m encouraged by the committee’s recommendation.  The team from Cleveland has gone above and beyond the call of duty and I think they’re representative of a city eager to show the country all the fantastic things they have to offer. ...  I also want to thank Dallas. The hospitality shown by their city, their team and the Republican community in Dallas has been tremendous.” 

Earlier story:

It could be Cleveland ... 

Will it be Cleveland? reports:

"It really is totally up in the air," said Terry Egger, the former Plain Dealer publisher and chairman of the Cleveland Host Committee. "We just don't know." RNC officials were in Cleveland for a follow-up visit last week, assessing "creative ways" to make the city's bid work. Republicans are interested in an earlier convention -- June or July -- to allow their presidential nominee more time to raise money before the general election. If the party favors a June date, that could be a leg up for Cleveland, where leaders are open to accommodating such a schedule.

Then again, it could be Dallas ... 

Will it be Dallas? The News reports:

Dallas has long been considered a front-runner, even though the city got a late start to the high stakes competition. The city boasts unmatched fundraising prowess, a strong hotel portfolio and an arena that was literally built to host such a convention. Organizers have pulled out all the stops, employing elephants, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and Big Tex to wow GOP scouts. And it hasn’t hurt that local investor Ray Washburne, the GOP’s national finance chairman, has been a key cog in the city’s bid. Enid Mickelsen, head of the Republican site selection committee, reportedly told Dallas leaders last month, “In any other year, Dallas would’ve been a slam dunk.”

Big D has the big bucks

Last month, KERA’sDoualyXaykaothao and Shelley Koflerreported:

Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, says Dallas got a late start, launching its bid to host the convention only four months ago. But he says Big D has a big advantage – money.

Dallas says it already has more than $45 million of the $60 million lined up to host the convention -- more than the other competitors.

Convention organizers have visited Dallas and Cleveland, scoping out sites. You might recall that at the American Airlines Center, members of the site selection walked the red carpet as they entered. They were met by cheerleaders for the Dallas Mavericks and Stars and by two elephants, representing the Republican Party’s mascot.

“I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I was going to pet a few elephants on my way into the arena. But that was a nice touch,” National Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus said. “Only in Dallas.”

Learn more about Dallas' bid here.

(Photo credit:American Airlines Center photo by Jim Epler, Flickr)

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.