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Republicans scope out Twin Cities for 2008 national convention

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Davidson and Rybak
Jo Ann Davidson, the head of the RNC's convention team, talks with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Just as Democrats did in late June, the contingent of Republicans will tour areas throughout the Twin Cities to determine whether it makes sense to hold their next convention in Minnesota.

Sen. Norm Coleman
Sen. Norm Coleman says it's time Minneosta hosted a Republican National convention.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

The group had breakfast at the new Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis with the mayors of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington along with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Jo Ann Davidson said the decision as to where to hold the convention goes beyond sheer logistics.

"One of the things that's very important to us as a committee is the feeling that a community really wants the convention," Davidson said. "The enthusiasm of the community and the community leaders to host the convention means a great deal. It's a tough decision as you're looking at cities."

Even though it was early in her visit, Davidson said she was impressed with Minnesota hospitality and the level of cooperation among the three cities and the state.

Sen. Coleman told reporters it's time for Minnesota to once again welcome a Republican National Convention.

Jo Ann Davidson
Jo Ann Davidson is heading up the Republican National Committee site selection effort.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"It's been over a century. I think it's our time," Coleman said. "Politically we are the heartland of the country. We're states that have been, and that are in play -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa. It's our time."

Minnesota political leaders, Republican and Democrat, are selling the state's national political battleground status.

The sales pitch goes like this. Either national party could make inroads in Minnesota by holding its convention here.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says choosing Minnesota would also nicely position the parties in an area of the country that's become critical to presidential politics.

"It's clustered around the Mississippi River, which is really where the next election is going to be decided. And it's in a community that knows how to do these events," Rybak says. "I think the Democrats specifically like us because this has been a good loyal Democratic state, and the Republicans like it because they think they're going to be able to carry this."

"I think both parties like it for pretty much the same reasons," said Rybak. "And both of them are starting to realize that they better snap it up before the other guy does."

Site visit
Officials from St. Paul and Minneapolis welcomed a group from the Republican National Committee Monday, as the RNC considers the Twin Cities as the location for its 2008 national convention.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Should one of the parties choose Minneapolis- St. Paul, the other would automatically remove the Twin Cities from its short list.

Davidson, from the RNC, acknowledged the political strategy argument, but said politics will not drive the decision.

"We have to sharpen the pencils and take a look at where we are, and make the decision on what's the best business decision for us and hosting a convention," Davidson said. "Clearly, all of the cities that are involved in bidding for our convention and bidding for the Democrat convention are cities that come from states that are playing important political roles right now."

Republicans are also considering New York, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, Ohio.

Some of the Minnesota politicians who are wooing Republicans will direct their sales pitch to Democratic National Committee members later this week in Chicago. They're hosting a reception where the DNC is holding its annual meeting.

Besides the Twin Cities, the Democrats' short list includes Denver and New York.