No doubt Dallas has great cheerleaders and nearby stockyards for visitors with a taste for steak sushi. Kansas City sports a trendy Power & Light District and Arthur Bryant’s, the most famous BBQ joint on Earth. Denver, well, it’s high up there — in one sense or another. But this is about politics, people — and no place is more critical politically in a presidential year than Ohio.
The city has the wow factor (as opposed to the Dallas cow factor) and the great logistics that delegates crave, from a compact, walkable downtown, widely accessible mass transit and two well-served city airports — including one right next to the lake downtown — to thousands of fancy new hotel rooms in the city center and the glittering private and chandelier-bedecked public spaces of the largest theater district outside of New York City.
Not to mention its world-class arts and music scene that none of the other three can match, from the Cleveland Orchestra to the Rock Hall, and stress relievers such as lake cruises, locally distilled whiskey and nationally-known chefs such as Michael Symon. Plus the lake breezes that keep the city comfortable well into July compared with, say, a Dallas scorcher.
Then there is Cleveland’s time-zone advantage. GOP pols want to be on prime time TV — and they can do that most easily from Cleveland, as the lone eastern-time-zone city in the running. That was one reason cited by a majority of D.C.-based political reporters informally polled by Plain Dealer Bureau Chief Stephen Koff who revealed they are rooting for Cleveland. (Of those who responded with a preference, Cleveland got 8 votes; Denver, 6; Dallas, 1, and Kansas City, 0 — sorry, Kansas City.)
True, Cleveland hasn’t hosted a political convention since 1936. but it’s tapping into public and private dollars statewide to reach the $60 million the RNC wants raised (although Dallas retains the money lead, no doubt.)
But Texas is in the bag for the Republicans in 2016.
Ohio is the prize. And while Cleveland itself is a Democratic city, the state’s Republican muscle is behind its bid, including Gov. John Kasich, a possible 2016 presidential contender.
Note to the RNC: The last time the GOP held a major presidential event in Cleveland, it worked out well for you. Ronald Reagan unseated Democrat Jimmy Carter just seven days after their lone campaign debate was televised nationally from Cleveland’s Public Hall in 1980. Carter nose-dived in Cleveland’s home county, taking barely half the Cuyahoga County vote as Reagan took Ohio. A return to Cleveland could, once more, be a ticket to the party’s future.
Elizabeth Sullivan is opinion director for the Northeast Ohio Media group and directs the editorial board for The Plain Dealer and NEOMG in Cleveland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.