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Dallas Still Swinging In 2-City Fight For 2016 RNC

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Dallas was a late entry to host the 2016 GOP Presidential Nominating Convention. But Wednesday the Republican National Committee whittled down its list of finalists to Dallas and Cleveland.

Dallas’ mayor, Mike Rawlings, always thought his city was a strong candidate for the Republican Nominating Convention, even though he is personally a Democrat. He spoke to reporter’s just minutes before the announcement was made. ” I love people coming to Dallas,” he said. “Spending money, being in our hotels, [and] forget about the parties! This is a non-partisan issue to sell Dallas.”

The deal could be worth somewhere between $200 and $250 million to the city…if it can land the convention, according the President and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Phillip Jones. “Two-hundred-fifty million is about the size of a (college basketball) Final Four; so it’s a big deal.” It’s the money and the prestige of having all political eyes in the world on Big D for four days.

Dallas last held a major party presidential convention in 1984 when Republicans re-nominated Ronald Reagan — it was in August. The GOP wants the event held much earlier in 2016, and Cleveland can come up with June dates, something Dallas cannot.

“They’re offering both June and July dates, and we’re full in Dallas in June. We can’t offer June dates,” said Jones, and not because of potential playoff problems at the AAC. “It’s not about the venue, it’s about the availability of hotel rooms that we can’t offer in this point in time — because we’re full.”

But with July dates Dallas can offer up to 96,000 hotel rooms within 1.1 miles of the AAC. Earlier this month the city showed the GOP it also has vast public support. Dallas also has a funding advantage: $46 million in commitments, nearly double what Cleveland can reportedly offer.

But Rawlings cautions not to count out the competition. “Cleveland’s very aggressive, so we’ll see where it is and we just still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

There is one other issue. Politically, Texas is viewed as solidly Republican and Ohio is a swing state. Could a convention there tilt the scales to Cleveland? No, says county GOP chair Wade Emert. “I don’t think people select convention sites on whether they’re in a swing state or not. Again, I think Texas — being the largest conservative state in the union — needs to have a much larger role.” And he believes Dallas’ location, with the AAC as the projected arena for the event, plays in the city’s favor. “We have more fine dining and accommodations and night life around the American Airlines Center and the convention than any other city that was in the running.”

A final decision is expected in August. The Republicans will visit Cleveland one more time but not Dallas, according to Jones. He says they don’t need to because all of their questions here have been answered.