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Twin Cities pick expected to give GOP a Midwest boost

Convention stage could extend to critical neighboring states

By Patrick Sweeney

Pioneer Press

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 begin.

 

On Wednesday, both Pawlenty and Coleman said, as they have in the past, that they would not be candidates for the vice presidency.

 

"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 president."

 

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 impact."

 

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 psweeney@pioneerpress.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

Pioneer Press

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

 

2000: Philadelphia

 

1996: San Diego

 

1992: Houston

 

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 acceptance speech.

 

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

 

Voices

 

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 United States."

 

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 political convention."

 

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 time."

 

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