As Dallas Courts the Republican Convention, the City's Secret Weapon May Be Texas Demographics

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The Republican National Convention committee on Tuesday kicked off a week of host city-searching with a trip to Cleveland, the first of four stops. After Cleveland, committee members will make stops in Kansas City and Denver before rounding out the trip in Dallas late next week.

Dallas city officials, for their part, are working hard to promote the city to RNC officials.

Besides the obvious publicity a major national convention would bring to Dallas, city officials are drooling over the tourism revenue the convention would bring into the city -- by some accounts as much as $150 to $200 million dollars. And while Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has publicly expressed reservations about hosting the Democratic convention bid because of fundraising concerns, Dallas seems to have breezed by that roadblock. Sam Merten, former Observer staff writer and current mayoral spokesman, said this week that Dallas has already secured the $50 million needed to host the convention, all through private donations.

Yet city officials are scrambling to gain ground and improve their self-described status as underdogs. Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Phillip Jones told The Dallas Morning News that he considers Denver, which hosted the Democrats in 2008, the frontrunner.

But Dallas can woo with the best, and woo it will. Visitors Bureau VP Frank Librio said the RNC visit next week will center on the American Airlines Center, which would be the primary convention venue site, and AT&T Stadium, which could host lavish opening and closing events. A walking tour through Klyde Warren Park and the Arts District seem like locks; a brisket banquet at Pecan Lodge would probably seal the deal.

Jones' gloominess and the summer heat aside, Dallas is seen as a pretty sexy city to the GOP. With the creeping possibility that Texas could become a key battleground state, the GOP is eager to strengthen its influence in Texas. The bid website boasts that Dallas, with its diverse population, is an ideal city for reaching out to the critical Latino vote:

Dallas. Truly Traditional. Distinctly Diverse.

  • Dallas is critical to the Texas Red State economic success.
  • With 42 percent Hispanic, 28 percent Anglo and 25 percent African American residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dallas is the ideal place for the Republican Party to continue the current outreach to growing and evolving segments of the population who will be critical in the 2016 election.
  • The Washington Post recently noted that Latinos in Texas are more Republican than elsewhere. And what's more, Latinos in Texas are also trending more toward the GOP and away from Democrats, in contrast to the rest of the country.

Local Democrats, predictably, said this week they would be thrilled to have conservative eyes fix their gaze on Dallas, because political theater is even better from the front row. (Local journalists would be inclined to agree.)

"Some of us will demonstrate outside the RNC, some will hold house parties to watch it on TV," said Taylor Holden, Executive Director of the Dallas County Democratic Party.. "The RNC typically stick their feet in their mouth at these events, so that's good for us."

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