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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

2016 GOP convention in Cincinnati is now a waiting game


There’s an old saying in the game of golf – “never up, never in.”

It means that if your ball is on the green, a long way from the cup, you have to swing your putter with an extra “oomph” to get the ball somewhere close to the hole. That way, if you don’t sink it, you have an easy tap-in putt.

“Never up, never in” seems to be the mindset of Cincinnati’s Republican Party leadership as they go full-bore to convince the Republican National Committee (RNC) to bring its July 2016 presidential nominating convention to Cincinnati, where the main convention venue would be US Bank Arena.

Friday, a delegation of local Republicans, along with officials of the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), went to Washington, D.C. and made their formal pitch to the RNC’s nine-member selection committee.

They had a slick video laying out the charms of Cincinnati and the bountiful local attractions, with an intro from Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat who is anxious to bring the convention to town.

The group included Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, Cincinnati council member Amy Murray, and Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the CVB. They were led by John Barrett, the president and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group, who flew them all to D.C. in his private jet.

Obviously, they have competition for this event, which will bring at least 60,000 to 75,000 attendees to the city, with the biggest contingent being the media who stream in from all over the world to cover presidential nominating conventions.

Two of the competitors are in Ohio – Columbus and Cleveland. The rest are Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Delegations from Dallas and Las Vegas made their pitches to the RNC Friday too.

But the Cincinnati group came out of the hour-long meeting all pumped up.

The committee, Triantafilou said, was “very interested. They were very engaged. They asked questions and we had the answers. Reading the body language of the committee, I think we did very well.”

One of the things the Cincinnati group told them was that 41 percent of the delegates could walk back to their hotels – either in downtown Cincinnati or just across the river in Kentucky – from sessions in US Bank Arena.

That is a big deal at a presidential nominating convention. Often, most of the delegates find themselves in hotels, assigned to state delegations, that involve long and uncomfortable bus rides to the actual convention site.

Lincoln said the group told the RNC that the rest of the delegates would be in suburban hotels on both sides of the river, but that none would have more than a 15 to 20 minute bus ride to the convention venue.

“We accomplished our primary objectives,’’ Lincoln said of the meeting in Washington. “We told them where we are, what we have to offer and how we have handled these big conventions in the past, like the World Choir games.”

Winning a political party’s presidential nominating convention does not come without a price.

The Cincinnati delegation was told it would have to raise $50 million locally to host the convention.

No sweat, they said.

“The chairman of our group is John Barrett,’’ Triantafilou said. “And if John Barrett can’t raise $50 million in Cincinnati, I don’t know who could. It won’t be a problem.”

But everyone knows that to make money, you have to spend money. And the economic benefits to a city and a region that hosts a convention can be enormous, with tens of thousands of people filling up every hotel room, jamming the restaurants and bars and generally spending money like it was going out of style. It could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local community.

That’s why even Democrats like Cranley, county Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke, and Vice Mayor David Mann are lending their support to the local GOP effort.

Friday, when Murray tweeted out a message saying the delegation had just arrived in Washington, Mann replied to her tweet.

“Good luck today with the presentation,’’ Mann said in his tweet. “This would be a great thing for our city.”

The county GOP organization is doing everything it can to show the RNC there is broad-based public support for bringing the GOP here.

The party has e-mailed all of its supporters to vote for Cincinnati in the RNC’s online poll. The county party also has its own Facebook page and Twitter account, @Cincy2016.

One thing Cincinnati may have going for it is the fact that is a pivotal county in a state that will be a must-win for whoever is the 2016 GOP presidential nominee. But Kansas City can say the same thing; so can Columbus. Cleveland – not so much; it is and always will be heavily Democratic.

Triantafilou said that subject didn’t come up much during the discussion Friday.

“I think the importance of Hamilton County and Ohio is sort of a given,’’ Triantafilou said.

Now, though, the local GOP must wait.

The RNC selection committee will start making site visits to some of the contending cities within the next few weeks to see for themselves if a city is suitable for an event as big as the GOP convention.

Then, probably in the summer, the RNC will make its choice.

Cincinnati’s Republicans are doing everything they can. They’ve put a good stroke on the ball with that putter. Now they have to wait to see to if the ball drops in the hole.