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Cities Wind Up For Gop Convention Pitch Onslaught Of Media Makes Politics Big Civic Winner

The campaign for the 2000 presidential election year began in earnest here this week, complete with schmoozing, political consultants and promises of fame and glory for the winner.

But there are no candidates for president in this campaign.

This is the campaign for the right to host the Republican national convention in 2000. A similar campaign will start soon for the Democratic convention.

“Compared to other events like the Olympics, it’s not that big. But it is the Super Bowl of politics,” said Tim Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

The conventions bring only 2,000 or so actual delegates to town. But with 15,000 members of the news media covering the biggest names and ideas in American politics and government, the convention turns an international spotlight on the host city for a week or so.

“It highlights the unique attributes of the host city to people across the nation and around the world,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Grossman.

Eager to get a leg up on the competition for the GOP convention, several cities started lobbying here at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, even though the party did not name a site selection committee until Friday, and it will not make its recommendation to the full 165-member Republican National Committee until January 1999.

Philadelphia officials boasted of their city’s unique role in American history during a reception at a posh resort here. San Antonio hired a phalanx of lobbyists, including veterans of past GOP presidential campaigns, and then hosted a “Dessert Fiesta.” Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., also started lobbying.

That’s not to say those four have the field to themselves. The Republican National Committee next week will invite several other cities to make a pitch. The Democratic National Committee already has invited 27 cities to submit bids. On Friday, Boston officials said they will aggressively seek the Democratic convention.

The financial payoff for the winner is large. Chicago officials estimated that their city enjoyed a $130 million windfall from the Democratic National Convention in 1996. San Diego city officials say their town picked up a net gain of $125 million from the Republican National Convention.

The parties require some basics, the most important of which is at least 30,000 hotel rooms. In some past conventions in smaller cities, such as Kansas City in 1976, some delegates have had to stay in far-off towns.