Washington, D.C. The odds of hosting the Republican Party's next presidential convention have improved for Dallas, Denver, Cleveland and Kansas City, Missouri. Two other players, Las Vegas and Cincinnati, have folded.
The four remaining cities will be making in-city pitches to party officials looking for a host with ample meeting space, hotels and transportation to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors.
Another crucial requirement: deep pockets. The host city would have to pick up a tab as high as $60 million.
Dallas is seen as a leading contender, in part because of its coalition of wealthy donors, ties to the Bush family and an oil industry that could foot the bill. That city also has plenty of hotel and convention space to house the delegates and donors who flock to pep rally for the party faithful, along with the news media throng.
Dallas has also aggressively courted party officials. At a recent Republican National Committee meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, the Dallas organizers hosted a cocktail reception for delegates and offered them a chance to pose for pictures with Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.
Cleveland also could emerge as strong contender. Although northeast Ohio is a strongly Democratic area, it remains in a perennial hard-fought presidential state and has sought to convince RNC members that the city on Lake Erie is more than a former steel town that has fallen on hard times.
And Denver has experience; it hosted the Democrats' 2008 convention that nominated President Barack Obama and has a modern airport.
RNC officials are focused on each city's hotel and transportation plans following a 2012 Tampa convention in which many participants were forced into hotels an hour from the convention site or onto long bus rides. Many RNC members are still smarting from that experience and have vowed not to repeat the logistical nightmare.
The RNC said Cincinnati bid officials cited issues with its arena in pulling back its proposal.
Las Vegas' decision to end its bid on Thursday came as something of a surprise.
The desert city hired a raft of political consultants to woo RNC members and constituencies and was seen as a favorite. But organizers said scheduling problems were insurmountable and withdrew the bid before the RNC voted Thursday to narrow the field. The RNC wanted to have its convention in June, when much of Las Vegas' meeting and convention space was already booked.
One RNC official said party officials viewed other cities as more eager to cater to the convention and accommodate organizers' demands. Las Vegas, with its constant stream of other conventions, was seen as less aggressive in courting the RNC, given organizers would have to pick up the price tag if successful, he said.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
Some party officials worried that its reputation for excess could overshadow the event. Others were concerned about the influence of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Among the world's 10 richest people, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. has spent tens of millions of dollars to help Republican candidates and causes, and he fully backed efforts to bring the convention to his backyard.
But RNC officials worried that Adelson's deep pockets could have proved a liability for a party looking to broaden its appeal. One RNC official directly involved in picking the city said the site selection committee was looking for a broader donor base — not one or two billionaires — to pick up the tab.
Almost immediately, the RNC and Las Vegas alike began to prepare for a 2020 convention in Sin City.
"While the committee understands their decision, both cities made a compelling case for 2016 and would make excellent hosts should they pursue efforts to host a future RNC convention," said RNC Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen of Utah.
Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said he was disappointed that the convention wasn't coming to his state, "but I will get a convention somehow, some way."