GOP picks Twin Cities for its 2008 convention

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Welcome to St. Paul
A sign on the Xcel Center announces the awarding of the Republican National Convention in 2008 to the Twin Cities.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

The Republican National Committee is ready to paint the Twin Cities red, and hopes their convention in 2008 convinces voters in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to vote Republican in 2008.

At a news conference at the Xcel Energy Center, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined the Democratic mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to accept the bid via conference call from RNC site selection chair Jo Ann Davidson.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is flanked by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, right, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, left, in announcing the Twin Cities will host the 2008 Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

"I am pleased to announce that the site selection committee of the Republican National Committee has met today and has decided to begin negotiations with the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to be our host of the 2008 Republican National Convention," Pawlenty announced.

Davidson says the RNC selected the Twin Cities because it has the best business plan. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and other speakers praised the decision and said it would introduce Minnesota to the rest of the world.

Mayor Chris Coleman said the RNC's decision is proof of the region's promise.

"What this confirms for us is that the Twin Cities can compete with any city in this country, any region in this country, and when people see what we have in this community, there is no one that can top us," he said.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota GOP Chair Ron Carey celebrate after learning the Twin Cities will host the 2008 Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

The RNC selection came as a bit of a surprise. One Republican state party official expressed shock when the news first broke. One reason may be that both the RNC and the Democratic National Committee were both considering the Twin Cities for the convention. Twin Cities officials have long said that they would not host both conventions and Mayor R.T. Rybak says he was in close contact with the Democratic National Committee Chair, Howard Dean, but the Republicans beat the Democrats to the punch.

"We said along that we were in a bipartisan effort to get one of these conventions and that the group made the decision, we would go with," Rybak said. "We were in very aggressive conversations with the Democrats and I spoke with Gov. Dean twice today. They were planning to make a decision very shortly. The Republicans moved first."

The RNC may also be looking beyond the business plan and focusing on the politics. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa were battleground states in the 2004 presidential election and are expected to play a big role in 2008.

Ron Carey, Minnesota's Republican Party chair, says having the convention in Minnesota will energize core Republican supporters.

"The Upper Midwest is a battleground, if you look at the last couple of presidential elections. This is a regional event where we reach western Wisconsin. As a native Iowan, I know that all roads lead to the Twin Cities. And Minnesota is a key state as well. All three states are in play," Carey said.

Carey and others say the bid will also bring plenty of money into the area. They estimate that the convention could bring upwards of $145 million in economic benefit to the Twin Cities. That's good news to local business around the Xcel Energy Center.

About a block southwest of the Xcel Energy Center is Cossetta's Italian restaurant and deli. Manager Charles Cook says the convention is good news for St. Paul.

The X
The Xcel Energy Center will host the 2008 Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

"There'll be a lot of people coming in to our city and whether you like Republicans or not, it'll be a great impact for all the businesses. It's going to be a lot more people. It's going to be a little tougher for people to go to other events around here but it'll be good for other retail businesses in the area," he said.

It will also be a political bonanza for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who will be running for re-election in 2008. Coleman is the former mayor of St. Paul and worked hard to build the Xcel Energy Center. One RNC official called it "the house that Norm built."

Following the celebration, there will be plenty of work to do. Local officials have to negotiate the final details with the RNC. They also have to raise about $45 million in private money for the convention. No one would say how much taxpayers will have to pay, but it's certain that they'll pay something for the increased security and infrastructure improvements for the convention.