On money, values and the GOP’s 2016 convention

06/06/2014 2:06 PM

06/06/2014 4:26 PM

It didn’t take long for Enid Mickelsen, chair of the GOP’s convention site selection committee for 2016, to zero in on a Kansas City character trait.

“There’s a great sense of tradition and community spirit here,” Mickelsen said Thursday, in the midst of her committee’s whirlwind tour of the Sprint Center and other convention assets and attractions.

Children leading the Pledge of Allegiance. A marching band on the airport tarmac. Meaningful reflections on the GOP’s prior Kansas City gatherings, in 1928 and 1976. A fleet-footed mayor not bashful about launching into a welcome dance or setting aside his, ah, Democratic leanings for the good of the cause. Bystanders waving to the visitors’ bus.

“Those,” Mickelsen said, “are the kinds of traditional values that clearly you have in Kansas City.”

Mickelsen recalled that when a similar committee toured New York years ago, the hand gestures outside the bus tended to be something other than friendly waves. Still, the GOP selected that big bad city for its 2004 convention.

Politics, then, has little or nothing to do with the site selection.

The real bottom line, GOP national chair Reince Priebus repeated on Thursday, comes down to three things: the hotels, the arena and the ability to raise money. Not the promise of money, or a wink about money, or the hope of bringing in some vague semblance of money. But a real guarantee to flash cash as early as possible.

When pressed to get specific, Troy Stremming, co-chair of the Kansas City committee that’s putting the full-court woo on the GOP, came through. He announced that the finance committe, led by Peggy Dunn, the Leawood mayor, and her husband, Terry Dunn, of the J.E. Dunn Construction Co., had already lined up $30 million in cash and in-kind contributions, meaning that they’re perhaps halfway toward their goal.

No sweat, people, Stremming implied. It’s the kind of can-do traditional value Mickelsen was talking about.

Mickelsen said an early guarantee on the money side would mean the committee won’t be getting in the way of fund-raising by the party’s presidential candidates as the 2016 election season approaches. (But hasn’t it already started?)

Mickelsen’s delegation began the week in Cleveland, left town on Friday and will head next week to Denver, then Dallas.

There is, you might have noticed, a deep, soul-searching divide in the Republican Party. But I’m not talking about the establishment versus the tea party.

The other, more pertinent divide is the one that apparently has opened up between two GOP standard bearers.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney popped up here the other day to express his strong preference for a Kansas City convention. Cheney has fond memories of the 1976 convention, Priebus noted, when he served as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff and saw the beginning of the party’s “Reagan Revolution.”

Reports out of Dallas indicate that former President George W. Bush, Cheney’s boss (or was it the other way around?), remains on the Texas bandwagon.

The GOP is considering two starting dates for its four-day 2016 lovefest, June 27 and July 18. Cheney argued for the earlier date, and Priebus said that would give Kansas City a distinct advantage, given that all three competing cities have sports franchises that might complicate arena availability. Republican insiders have been calling for an earlier convention than in years past to give their nominee a longer run to the election.

Well, that’s a strategy.

But that’s getting ahead of the game. Kansas City has a story to tell, Mickelsen said, and her effort is all about creating the right backdrop for the GOP to tell its own story. If they choose to do that here, I promise not to hold it against them.

To reach Steve Paul, call 816-234-4762 or send email to paul@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at sbpaul.

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