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RNC team visits Cleveland to see how it measures up as a convention city
An advance team is confirming Cleveland's claims that it can host the Republican convention

Kevin Niedermier
RNC officials are in Cleveland to see if the city can deliver its promises for hosting the 2016 Republican convention.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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In The Region:

If Cleveland is going to host the 2016 Republican convention, it first needs to impress the advance team in town today. The group is checking to see if the city’s claims of hotel rooms, amenities, financial support and convention experience are accurate. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on some of what the RNC team may be looking for.


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Cleveland is one of six cities, including Columbus, which early this month made it to the second round of the Republican presidential convention sweepstakes. If Cleveland passes this stage, it goes to the next round to be announced sometime in mid-May.

At stake is about 50,000 visitors spending a week in town spending millions of dollars. The RNC advance team won’t talk about what it’s found in Cleveland or the other contending cities it’s visited. But the president of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, Matt MacLaren, has some insight into what convention planners are looking for. He says Cleveland has one of the better hotel packages he’s seen for attracting a big event. And the new convention center is a serious plus. MacLaren says the city should also score points because getting around the region is relatively easy.

Cleveland transportation system a plus
“What citywide planners are always looking for is the convenience of getting from the hotel rooms to the events. Cleveland has a lot of great properties that are downtown around the convention center. And it’s easy access using the highway to get to the suburbs. This is a big enough event that people will have to stay in the suburbs and in the multi-county area. The highway system in the Cleveland area is easier to use that many other cities.”

Besides hotels, the RNC team will also check out amenities. Leah Santosuosso manages Johnny’s Downtown, a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant. If she could give a pitch from Cleveland’s restaurant community to the Republican officials in town, here’s what she would tell them.

“It’s welcoming and diverse. If you want something traditional, Johnny’s Downtown would be perfect. If you want Vietnamese, you could go down Detroit to Minh Anh. We have a huge network and we all support each other and we love having people come to town to try our places.”

Santosuosso says last summer’s Senior Games in Cleveland helped train her for big events. She says she learned to always be prepared because you never knew when a large or small group would stop in to eat. And Santosuosso is looking forward this summer’s Gay Games, which will attract even more visitors.

Teamwork to impress RNC campaign planners
MacLaren of the hotel association says showing convention planners that everyone can work together to pull off a successful event is important.                

“Everything from having the same type of messaging or signage on the day of the event during recruitment, and making sure staff or sales people are involved in whatever needs to be done to help recruit those groups. ... And it’s been great to see, not just the hotels, but the entire community step up and greet the RNC.”  

Bringing convention to Cleveland could mean more Ohio Republican voters
Convenient lodging, good food, adequate convention space and enough money to make it work may not be the only factors that bring the Republican convention to Cleveland. Former Ohio GOP Congressman Steve LaTourette says the prospect of turning some local Democratic or independent votes Republican may also be considered.

“If there’d been a 13 percent vote shift in Cuyahoga County in 2012 away from President Obama to Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney would be president of the United States today. So Cuyahoga County is critically important to the Republican base and to the Republican strategy in Ohio and across the country.”

Besides Cleveland and Columbus, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas and Kanas City are still in the running. The RNC is expected to whittle this field down in mid-May.  The full Search committee will then visit the remaining cities in late May or early June. The final decision will be made later this summer or early in the fall.

Correction: The spelling of the Vietnamese restaurant on Detroit is Minh Anh. It was incorrectly spelled in an earlier version of this story. 



Listener Comments:

Also, the correct spelling for the name of the Vietnamese restaurant is "Minh Anh" =)

Posted by: Leah (Cleveland) on April 30, 2014 5:04AM
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