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Saturday, December 3, 2016

By Bruce Tomaso, The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — After a snow delay, Dallas is ready to join the sweepstakes for the next Republican convention.

Along with officials from seven other cities, Dallas representatives were poised to make their pitch to GOP leaders in Washington on March 4, but nature had other plans.

A blizzard dumped a half-foot of snow on Washington, forcing airlines to cancel scores of flights into the nation’s capital.

Dallas, Las Vegas and Cincinnati had to postpone their presentations, which are now scheduled for March 21. Kansas City, Missouri, Denver, Phoenix, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, went ahead with their bids.

GOP officials will visit sites in April and announce a winner in August.

The stakes are high. The 2016 Republican National Convention will bring at least 40,000 visitors, as well as global media attention, to the host city.

“You’re looking at over $200 million of economic impact,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. His city, which hosted the Democrats in 2008, is among those pursing the Republicans in 2016.

While the multipliers and assumptions used to generate such economic-impact numbers can be generous, there’s no doubt that a lot of dollars get left behind once a convention has come and gone.

And there are residual benefits. After the Democrats visited in 2008, “Denver emerged as one of the top convention destinations in the world,” Hancock said.

Dallas was the GOP pick in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was re-nominated. But it was late to this game, tossing together a bid only within the last month or so. That eleventh-hour decision surprised even some members of the Dallas City Council.

“We’re starting late but will give it our very best effort,” said Kay Bailey Hutchison, the retired U.S. senator. Hutchison, a Dallas Republican, is one of those leading the city’s presentation.

Dallas’ strengths, she said, include “our two great airports and airline service … more convenient than others can offer,” plentiful hotel rooms within a couple of miles of American Airlines Center — which would be the main convention site — and the quality of that arena.

Throw in grand spaces for receptions — the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, among others — along with world-renowned caterers and an impressive array of fine restaurants, and the city starts to look downright alluring.

Then, too, there’s that Bush fellow (a fairly prominent Republican in his day) and his jewel of a library and museum at Southern Methodist University. It’s hard to imagine many cities that would be seem more welcoming to visiting Republicans.

On the other hand, traffic in Dallas on a good day is bad, and it isn’t going to get better by 2016. Getting on or off Stemmons Freeway, Woodall Rodgers or Dallas North Tollway near American Airlines Center would be nightmarish, especially during evening rush hour, just as the convention’s prime-time sessions would be getting under way.

Dallas’ downtown “renaissance” is a work in progress. Many visitors wouldn’t have cars. Many stuck downtown would be dismayed at the empty sidewalks and eerie quiet that are still the norm after dark.

And the weather in late June, early July? Let’s just say it falls between Denver’s splendid and Phoenix’s scorching.

But closer to scorching.

Here’s a look at the strong suits of the other bidders, along with a few loose threads that might not hold up to a lot of tugging:

Las Vegas

Strong suits: As Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki of Nevada told Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I don’t think there’s a better city in the world to host a convention. This is what we do.” The city has welcomed conventions of 150,000 people. Hotels abound, and they’re centrally located.

Loose threads: Those hotels have casinos. Showgirls, call girls, free drinks and round-the-clock gambling aren’t in keeping with the image that Republicans seek to project. Delegates would have plenty of opportunities to succumb to vice. If they did, and if they had prominent names, the army of reporters on hand would spread the news far and wide.