Republican convention to put Cleveland on national stage

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The “new and improved” Cleveland will get a chance on a national stage to shed its shoddy image as the “mistake on the lake” and the rust-belt city whose river once caught fire as Republicans on Tuesday chose it to play host to their 2016 national convention.

The decision to have tens of thousands of Republicans, reporters and onlookers descend on the city might have had a lot to do with Cleveland’s promise to raise big money and the availability of key venues for a late June target date, but it also can’t hurt for the GOP to have its convention in Ohio, usually a must-win state in presidential elections.

“Of course, they’ll say one of the reasons they chose Ohio is because it’s the ultimate purple swing state,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, who has attended every convention since 1976.

“OK, that’s true, but history suggests [a convention] doesn’t have much of an impact on the general election,” he said. “It will only help Republicans if they do what Obama and the Democrats did with Denver in 2008. They used that convention to train thousands of local volunteers who went out, registered voters and got out the vote in Colorado.”

He likened the selection of Cleveland to the Republicans’ choice of Detroit in 1980.

“When Republicans picked Detroit, it showed [Ronald] Reagan’s ability to win working-class, white Democrats,” Mr. Sabato said. “It didn’t help much in Detroit, but it did help in Macomb County where the Reagan Democrats were created.”

Cleveland was recommended over its closest competitor, Republican-friendly Dallas. Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, still are contenders for the Democratic convention, but it remains to be seen how Cleveland’s selection for the GOP event will affect its chances. Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York and Birmingham, Ala., also are in the running for the Democratic convention.

“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,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.

“The RNC set a new standard for conventions during this process,” he said. “Not only will the convention be held earlier in 2016, but there are also substantial guarantees in place for funding that put us well ahead of previous conventions and will give our nominee the best opportunity to succeed.”

The RNC hopes a late June convention, about two months earlier than usual, will allow its presidential candidate to take better advantage of federal funds after being formally nominated.

A study commissioned in the wake of the GOP convention in August, 2012, in Tampa, Fla., measured the direct financial benefit for the weeklong event at $214 million, reaching as much as $404 million as the benefits circulated in the broader local economy.

Positively Cleveland, the city’s tourism bureau, has estimated the economic benefits to be $200 million to $300 million.

Quicken Loans Arena in the city’s downtown will be the primary convention center, and delegates, reporters and other observers will be based in hotels scattered throughout the city and the surrounding area.

“There’s no doubt the perception of Cleveland is nowhere near the reality,” said Joe Roman, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “A common story from the business community is that it’s sometimes difficult to attract a person to come to Cleveland, but once they’re here they don’t want to leave.”

The region has committed itself to raising an estimated $60 million for the convention and expects about $40 million from the federal government for homeland security. That money will be spent locally and, in cases such as new security cameras to be installed, will be left behind when conventioneers leave.

The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Jim Provance is the Columbus, Ohio, bureau chief for The Blade. First Published July 8, 2014 12:00 AM

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