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Four Reasons Why GOP Chose Cleveland Over Dallas For 2016 Convention

Shelley Kofler
Dallas wooed the Republican National Convention committee with an extravagant balloon and confetti drop at American Airlines Center and several elephants, the Republican Party symbol.

Committee members choosing a site for the 2016 Republican National Convention said repeatedly they’d make a business decision, not a political one.  But following the selection of Cleveland over Dallas Tuesday, those close to the negotiations said politics played a role.

Here are four reasons why Republicans chose Cleveland.

1. Timing is everything: Cleveland can host convention in June 2016

Texas Republican Party Chair Steve Munisteri is a member of the Republican National Committee and told KERA he talked to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus shortly after the announcement.

Munisteri said the biggest factor weighing in Cleveland’s favor was the available dates for convention centers.

Dallas could not promise an early convention date in June because the Mavericks or Stars might need the American Airlines Center for playoffs.  Cleveland said it could make its Quicken Loans Arena available in June or July.

Last month, RNC site selection committee members visiting Dallas told reporters Dallas’ inability to host a June convention was not a factor.

But Munisteri says it was the biggest tie-breaker. 

Federal law prohibits the RNC from providing money to the party’s presidential candidate until he or she is officially selected at the convention. Delaying the convention would postpone the availability of what Munisteri expects to be more than $100 million in campaign funds for the GOP nominee.

“By having the convention on June 27 as opposed to July 18, that will give the Republican nominee three more weeks to benefit from RNC financial support as well as have three more weeks to be the nominee,” Munisteri said.

2. Ohio is a swing state

Munisteri said the second key factor in Cleveland being chosen was pure politics.  Texas is a reliably red state. Ohio isn’t, but the state will be crucial to a Republican winning the White House in 2016.

Munisteri comments on Ohio being a swing state on KERA radio.

“When everything is virtually equal … and one state can make the argument that if you have the convention there it will help build morale and the state is so close and just a little bit of help can tip it into the Republican column, I think we have to assume that was a factor.  And in talking to the national chairman Reince Priebus he in fact did tell me it was a factor,” Munisteri told KERA.

3. Texas GOP and reparative therapy for gays

Several insiders close to the decision said a plank in the Texas Republican Party platform passed last month that called for reparative therapy to help gay people become straight was also a point of discussion. 

That issue received national media coverage at a time Republicans say they want to build support among more diverse groups.

Munisteri acknowledged that several RNC members asked him about that plank of the platform. He said he voiced his personal opposition to the gay counseling issue and explained it became part of the state GOP platform through a parliamentary maneuver, not acceptance by the majority of convention delegates.

Munisteri said he doesn’t believe the platform was a deal breaker for Dallas and Texas.

4. The George W. Bush factor

Another factor mentioned by several individuals close to the negotiations was former President George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas.

They said there was some concern the media would be looking back, focusing too much time writing about Bush and his administration, when the party wanted media the focused on the future and its 2016 nominee.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.