Cleveland makes short list to host RNC convention

WASHINGTON (AP) – Luck has run out for Las Vegas’ push to bring the Republican Party’s next presidential nominating convention to Sin City. Cincinnati also has withdrawn from the list of possible hosts.

Republican National Committee officials voted on Thursday to approve four remaining contenders and planned to soon visit Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, and Kansas City, Missouri. Officials expect to narrow the field by this summer.

Las Vegas organizers cited problems with scheduling and convention space in a letter sent to the Republican National Committee before its vote Thursday. The desert city was thought to be a leader in the competition, although some party officials worried that its reputation for excess could overshadow the event.

Other party officials were concerned about the influence of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Among the world’s 10 richest people, Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., has spent tens of millions of dollars from his vast personal fortune to help Republican candidates and causes, and he fully backed efforts to bring the convention to his backyard.

But RNC officials worried Adelson’s deep pockets could have proved a liability for a party looking to broaden its appeal. One RNC official directly involved in picking the city said the site selection committee was looking for a broader donor base – not one or two billionaires – to pick up what is expected to be a $60 million tab.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The casino industry, including the leaders of the Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grand and the Wynn, was also largely unified behind the bid. But the RNC wanted to have its convention in June when much of Las Vegas’ meeting and convention space was already booked.

The RNC official said party officials viewed other cities as eager to cater to the convention and accommodate organizers’ demands. But Las Vegas, with its constant stream of other conventions, was seen as less aggressive in courting the RNC, given organizers would have to pick up the price tag if successful, he said.

The RNC said Cincinnati bid officials cited issues with its arena in pulling back its proposal.

Dallas is considered a major player in the competition, in part because of its coalition of wealthy donors with ties to the Bush family and the oil industry. That city has plenty of hotel and convention space to house the delegates, donors and reporters who flock to pep rally for the party faithful.

The RNC wants the convention held in the early summer of 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm. Officials are focused on each city’s transportation and hotel plans following a 2012 Tampa convention in which many participants were forced into hotels an hour from the convention site.

Money is the dominant concern. RNC officials who were forced to divert limited resources toward the last two conventions insist they cannot do so again. Most cities expect a convention price tag of between $55 million and $60 million.

“Prior to the committee’s vote, Cincinnati and Las Vegas notified the RNC that they would no longer pursue their bid to host the 2016 convention,” said RNC Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen of Utah. “While the committee understands their decision, both cities made a compelling case for 2016 and would make excellent hosts should they pursue efforts to host a future RNC convention.”

In their letter to the RNC, those behind the Las Vegas bid said they were deferring their effort to 2020.

“We unwaveringly believe that Las Vegas offers the most compelling business, logistical and quality of experience reasons to be selected as the venue for a national political convention,” reads a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press, “but the members of the Las Vegas 2016 Host Committee respectfully defer to the determination of your Site Selection Committee.”

Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said he was disappointed that the convention wasn’t coming to his state, “but I will get a convention somehow, some way.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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