With an endorsement from former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger in hand, Columbus mayor Michael Coleman addressed members of the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC, this morning as the city continues its effort to land the 2016 GOP national convention.
"You can't win the presidency without winning Ohio so the Republican convention should be in Columbus," said Coleman. "We understand large events and what it takes to put on these large events. Ohio State football is nearby where the convention will take place."
The Democrat mayor told Republicans that Columbus' hotels and Nationwide Arena - home of the NHL Blue Jackets - would easily meet the requirements of a host city.
Coleman also said it's good for the state that three Ohio cities are bidding for the convention.
"The RNC focuses on the state so it's a win-win no matter which city gets the bid," said Coleman. "With Ohio being a must-win, it's time for Ohio to host this because it hasn't hosted a major convention since 1936."
In a letter to RNC members, Schwarzenegger called Columbus “an excellent choice” to host the convention.
“Columbus stands out against competing cities because of its widespread community collaboration to accommodate visitors and hold successful events,” wrote Schwarzenegger. “Additionally, the unique districts that make up Columbus provide a visitor experience like no other. Everyone is proud to play a part. I don’t see that kind of dedication and selflessness anywhere but Columbus.”
Schwarzenegger, a former two term Republican governor of California, has hosted the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus since 1989.
No Republican candidate has ever won enough electoral votes to win the presidential election without carrying Ohio.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus downplayed that historical fact, stating that there is little evidence to support holding a convention in a state guarantees the nominee winning it in November.
Priebus told reporters after meeting with Columbus officials that financial concerns, transportation, hotel space and the time to the venue are on the top of his list. After that, the RNC would look at whether a city could help a candidate carry a state.
"It can be a factor, but certainly it wouldn't trump some of the other issues I've laid out," said Priebus. "We have to make sure we put on a convention that gives our nominee a bump. To me that is the number one purpose of having a convention."
Seven other cities are in the running to host the convention including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
"Every city brings an advantage and you have to look at what those advantages are," said Priebus.
Enid Mickelson, chairman of the RNC's site selection committee, said Republicans are looking at this as a "business decision."
“We recognize that you can add on fireworks and all kinds of things later on,” said Mickelson. “But you have to have that fundamental structure in place to make the convention work right.”
Columbus officials estimate they will need around $55 million in up-front costs to secure the event.
Brian Ross from Experience Columbus estimates the week long convention could generate $150-$200 in revenue for central Ohio.
10TV has also learned that Columbus has promised the RNC over 16,000 "first rate hotel rooms" all within 30 minutes of Nationwide Arena.
Without mentioning Columbus specifically, Priebus warned that the winning bid would need a complete transportation plan.
One of the criticisms made by Republicans about the 2012 host city Tampa is that it took too long for delegates to travel from their hotel to downtown and through tight security.
"When I think about Tampa I think about when you measure cities and their ability to perform and put on a great convention, it's one thing to take that measurement prior to a nominee coming into a city," said Priebus. "But once the secret service comes in things change so transportation can be night and day. Obviously without enough experience those are things you can miss."
Other cities bidding for the convention have vastly superior public transportation systems. Some, like Cleveland, have rapid transit service from the airport into downtown.
Columbus officials have also started the process of applying to host the 2016 Democratic convention.
The RNC makes their convention site selection much earlier each cycle than does the Democratic National Committee.
In 2012 Republicans announced their choice of Tampa in May, 2010. Democrats didn't announce Charlotte until February, 2011.