Lost opportunity: Cleveland wins the GOP, while Pittsburgh sits it out

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Cleveland is getting something that Pittsburgh isn’t.

Talk about fighting words.

In the latest bout of regional competition, the city on the lake beat out the city on three rivers before the contest even got underway. Pittsburgh was way behind in the attempt to lure a 2016 major political party convention, a prize that comes with a steep, upfront price tag but provides big returns on investment, in dollars spent as well as in the spinoff benefits of a week in the national spotlight.

By contrast, Cleveland put together an enticing package and was selected on Tuesday as the site for the Republican national convention in June 2016. It also remains a finalist for the Democratic convention, along with Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York and Birmingham, Ala.

The Ohio city won praise from the Republicans for its pitch, including an estimated $60 million it will raise for the event, which is expected to bring economic benefits of $200 million to $300 million. Although it would be surprising for Democrats to choose the same location for their convention in the same year, Cleveland’s pitch went further than Pittsburgh’s short-lived, half-hearted solicitation of the party that rules this city.

Pittsburgh wasn’t a contender for the Republican convention. In April, when the Democratic Committee requested applications from 15 locales including Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto agreed to submit one, but he also raised questions about whether it was feasible, given Pittsburgh’s wobbly finances. Last month, he and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald threw local support eastward, backing Philadelphia’s application.

Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 world summit in 2009 (take that, Cleveland), and it is a finalist for the 2016 National League of Cities convention, a 5,000-delegate event. But the city, which can easily match Cleveland amenity for amenity, set its sights too low in failing to make a stronger bid for one of the major political conventions.

If Cleveland could win it, certainly Pittsburgh would have been up to the task.

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