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St. Louis makes DNC's Final Four for 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 30, 2010 -  St. Louis has made the cut to be among the Final Four contenders to host the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

And despite the stiff opposition, some insiders -- publicly and privately -- believe that St. Louis may have a decent shot for hosting its first presidential convention in 96 years.

According to the DNC's announcement this afternoon, the contenders are: Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minn., and St. Louis.

All four cities happen to be in political battleground states.

"Throughout this summer, our team will visit these four cities to determine which is the best locale to host our 46th National Convention," the DNC said in a letter to its committee members.

One of those members is St. Louis Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby,  who has been lobbying hard for St. Louis' selection.

As he saw it,  "What the DNC has said is, 'St. Louis has what it takes' " to host one of the nation's largest conventions.

"This gives us an opportunity on the national and international stage to showcase what we have to offer," Wahby added.

In the city Democratic Party's announcement, it said that Denver's regional economy got a $266 million boost by hosting the Democratic presidential convention in 2008. That's more than four times the economic activity said to have been generated last year when St. Louis hosted Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said in a statement that his office is eager to show the DNC's selection team -- officially known as the Technical Advisory Group -- what St. Louis can offer, with the basics and amenities.

Among other things, Wahby said the city already has locked down commitments for 18,000 hotel rooms.

But the choice of a presidential convention site is as much political as it is practical.

On the plus side, as far as national Democrats are concerned, is the fact that Slay and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon are both Democrats and party boosters.

It's also could be a plus that St. Louis has been out of the running for so long. We've hosted five presidential conventions over the years, but the last was the Democratic gathering in 1916 that chose Woodrow Wilson.

Another possible positive: Nixon will be on the ballot in 2012. If his approval numbers remain high, national Democrats may see a convention here as their best option for revving up the state's Democrats to carry the state for President Barack Obama.

On the minus side for Missouri: The state narrowly went for Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008, not Obama.

The other three states competing for the convention -- Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina -- all went for Obama in 2008.

Cleveland, Ohio, also has a Democratic governor -- Ted Strickland -- who is in a tight re-election contest this fall with Republican John Kasich, a former congressman.

Should Strickland win re-election, national Democrats may feel that it's important to reward Ohio with a convention, since that state will be important to both major parties' presidential hopes in 2012.

Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C., both are in states currently with Republican governors -- which could be a minus for national Democrats.

Another minus could be the fact that Minneapolis is next door to St. Paul, which just hosted the 2008 GOP gathering.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be a presidential contender in 2012. But that could also be a plus for Minneapolis' 2012 chances, if national Democrats -- notably Obama -- believe that holding their convention in Pawlenty's backyard would show guts and a strong Democratic commitment to carrying the state again in 2012.

North Carolina, meanwhile, had been generally GOP territory until Obama's victory in 2008. National Democrats may view a presidential convention as their best hope for capturing a majority of the state's voters again in 2012 or to show that they are not writing off the South.

(The GOP already has opted for a city in another battleground state -- Tampa in Florida -- as the location for its 2012 presidential convention. In 2008, the Republicans outmaneuvered the Democrats by first snagging St. Paul, when it was an open secret that the Democrats were favoring the Twin Cities as well.)

Back to St. Louis. Missouri's border state status as a bridge to the Midwest and the South might help.

Another factor that could help St. Louis' chances is that it is on the border with Obama's home state of Illinois. If he's definitely not holding his re-election convention in his hometown in 2012, St. Louis may be the best alternative.

By this winter, we're likely to know for sure.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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