Twin Cities pick expected to give GOP a Midwest
Convention stage could extend to critical
By Patrick Sweeney
September 28, 2006
Will having the Republican National Convention in
Minnesota give Republicans an edge in the 2008 presidential election?
Almost certainly, according to local and national
political experts. That's because the upper Midwest — Minnesota, Iowa and
Wisconsin — is one of the few regions of the country that are neither firmly
blue nor firmly red, and Republicans could pick up votes from the buzz a
convention will generate.
Will the spotlight shining on the convention
podium in St. Paul make it even a bit more probable that a Minnesota favorite
son — U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman or Gov. Tim Pawlenty — ends up on the Republican
ticket as a vice presidential candidate?
Not likely, the same experts said Wednesday.
Vice presidential nominees of both major political
parties now routinely are chosen in August before the national conventions ever
On Wednesday, both Pawlenty and Coleman said, as
they have in the past, that they would not be candidates for the vice
"I have my hands full here in Minnesota," Pawlenty
said when asked at a news conference announcing the convention if he might be a
national candidate in 2008. "I want to stay in Minnesota."
Coleman, in a telephone interview from Washington,
said: "I'm not considering it. I have no intention, no desire, in '08 other than
to ask the people of the state of Minnesota to return me to the U.S. Senate."
But Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman who
sometimes advises Republican presidents and congressional leaders, said Coleman
and Pawlenty — provided he wins re-election as governor this year — could get
serious consideration for the Republican vice presidential nomination.
"They're not alone in the first tier, but they're
in the first tier," Weber said of the two men.
Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political
scientist, said Coleman and Pawlenty have been mentioned nationally as possible
vice presidential contenders. Helping host a national convention would burnish
their images with Republicans, but the glow from the convention might not come
in time for 2008, he said.
In a conference call announcing the Republicans'
choice of the Twin Cities as their convention site, Joann Davidson,
co-chairwoman of the national Republican Party, denied any red-blue election
strategy played into the site decision.
"We said from the very beginning that it was
strictly a business decision on our part," she said Wednesday.
But a string of politicians and political experts
— Coleman, Weber, Democratic activist and donor Vance Opperman, Minnesota
Republican chairman Ron Carey and Jacobs — said they believed Republican leaders
were clearly focused on competing for voters in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin
when they picked the Twin Cities for the convention.
"When we made the case, we talked about Minnesota,
Wisconsin and Iowa, the states that are going to be up for grabs," Coleman said.
"I believe the person who carries those three states is going to be the next
Weber said he talked with national Republican
co-chairman Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser,
about the convention's potential impact in the region.
"It's an easy sell to convince them that Minnesota
is the regional center of the upper Midwest, which is kind of the major swing
area in the country right now," Weber said.
"It would have helped either party," said Opperman,
who was co-chairman of the Twin Cities committee that sought either a Democratic
or Republican convention for the Twin Cities. "I think there is a political
Brian Melendez, Minnesota chairman of the
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, agreed with Opperman. But he said a Democratic
convention in Denver — Denver and New York are competing to host the 2008
convention — could yield a similar strategic advantage with voters in the West,
a potential swing area.
Jacobs, who has made a specialty of studying
politics in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, said the three states are important —
together they have 27 electoral votes, the same as Florida — and President
Bush's 2004 vote totals indicate any of them could go Republican.
"The president won Iowa in 2004. He came within a
whisker of winning Wisconsin and within 3 points of winning Minnesota … The
convention will give Republicans a chance to rivet the attention of voters in
the whole region," Jacobs said.
Bill Salisbury contributed to this report. Patrick
Sweeney can be reached at
email@example.com or 651-228-5253.
"When we made the case, we talked about Minnesota,
Wisconsin and Iowa, the states that are going to be up for grabs. I believe the
person who carries those three states is going to be the next president."
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota
At a glance
September 28, 2006
GOP officials picked the Twin Cities for their
2008 Republican National Convention over New York, Cleveland and Tampa-St.
Petersburg, Fla. Some highlights from previous conventions:
MINNESOTA'S ONLY PREVIOUS CONVENTION
The 1892 Republican National Convention brought
2,000 delegates to Minneapolis. The GOP backed President Benjamin Harrison in
his unsuccessful re-election bid. The convention was held in the 6-year-old
Industrial Exposition Building, which stood on the east bank of the Mississippi
River until its 1940 demolition. High-rise condos stand on the site today.
Recent GOP CONVENTIONS
2004: New York
1996: San Diego
1988: New Orleans
New York 2004 GOP Convention
Cost: More than $154 million. New York spent $58
million on police and services. $50 million was reimbursed by the federal
government. $15 million in federal money went to the Republican Party to pay for
the convention staff salaries and expenses, such as $207,000 spent on the
balloons that dropped from the ceiling after President Bush's nomination
Delegates: The 2004 GOP convention in New York had
4,853; about half were alternates
• 44 percent were women
• 6 percent were Hispanic
• 6 percent were African-American
• 2 percent were Asian-American
• 5 percent were under 30
Traffic impact: Police closed 13 blocks of Seventh
Avenue along one side of Madison Square Garden and 11 blocks of Eighth Avenue on
the other side
Arrests: Police say they arrested 1,821 people,
the most at any U.S. political convention
R.T. Rybak, Democratic mayor of Minneapolis: "I
like to party whether it's a Republican or Democratic one, and we're going to
have a good one right here."
Chris Coleman, Democratic mayor of St. Paul: "This
is about civic building. This is not about politics."
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican and former
St. Paul mayor: "One of the things that we said when he made the pitch is,
you've got Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa as battleground states — the heartland
of America. Whoever wins those states is going to be the next president of the
Tom Horner, GOP political consultant in
Minneapolis: "It's a huge coup for Republicans throughout the Upper Midwest."
Larry Dowell, head of the St. Paul Area Chamber of
Commerce: "We're going to roll out the red carpet here. I'd say it's a crown gem
for St. Paul. I don't think there's any convention that is more prized than a
Charlie Weaver, head of the Minnesota Business
Partnership and former chief of staff for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty: "This is
bigger than anything other than maybe an Olympics. It's the only thing that
captures the attention of the nation for four to five consecutive nights prime
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