- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, will host the Republican Party’s 2008 nominating convention from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, Ken Mehlman, the party’s national chairman said yesterday.

The RNC’s site-election committee rejected elaborate bids from New York — the site of the highly successful 2004 Republican convention and secret favorite of many Republican officials and operatives — as well as from Cleveland and a joint bid from Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla.

Party leaders yesterday called their choice a strategically important decision.

“Republicans will choose their presidential nominee in the heart of the heartland — the Twin Cities will host the Republican National Convention, which says Republicans care about the Midwest,” Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, told The Washington Times.

“Whoever takes my state and two of the other states next to us that the Democrats won last time will be the next president,” said Mr. Coleman, a Republican who defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale in 2002 after incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash.

Mr. Coleman noted the Twin Cities media markets extend into not only Minnesota, but Wisconsin and Iowa and part of Illinois, prime battlegrounds last time. Iowa narrowly went Republican in 2004, but Minnesota, which hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since Richard M. Nixon in 1972, preferred Democrat John Kerry by 3.5 percentage points.

President Bush also lost the other big Midwestern states last time. Illinois’s 21 electoral votes went to Mr. Kerry, as did Michigan’s 17 electoral votes and Wisconsin’s 10, although Mr. Kerry carried that state by less than one percentage point

“You need a broad-based community to make this [convention] work, and we have Democratic mayors in Minneapolis and St. Paul and a Republican governor and a Republican senator,” Mr. Coleman said.

The decision to go with Minnesota also showcases one of the Republican Party’s rising young conservative stars, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 45, who was going to run for the Senate in 2002 until Vice President Dick Cheney persuaded him to run for governor instead so that Mr. Coleman could make his run against Mr. Wellstone without a primary fight.

All smiles yesterday, Mr. Pawlenty, a favorite of Mr. Mehlman’s for vice president in 2008, called the choice of the Twin Cities “fantastic.” Mr. Coleman used the same word to describe the convention accommodations, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Democratic National Committee momentarily put partisanship aside to “congratulate the Twin Cities,” which the Democrats had also been considering.

DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said her committee “was thrilled to have three great American cities submit strong bids for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. We are looking forward to working with Denver and New York as we make our final decision. The Twin Cities is a great community and this announcement is good news for the cities.”

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