WASHINGTON — Colorado Republicans are hoping to say farewell to President Barack Obama in the same manner that Democrats celebrated his nomination in 2008, on a Denver stage during a national party convention.
Only this time there would be no glowing Greek columns in a staged imitation of an ancient temple — or a Democrat in the spotlight.
Republicans led by Bob Beauprez are making a bid to bring the National Republican Convention to Denver in 2016, which some say is a fitting bookend to signal the conclusion of the rocky Obama era.
The key to scoring a Denver convention, which is expected to provide a $250 million economic bonanza to the winning city, is a financial commitment from Colorado to pay the party’s estimated $60 million price tag – Greek columns not included.
Jim Nicholson, the former Denver attorney and businessman who also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during President George W. Bush’s administration, is key to the fundraising effort to bring the convention to Denver.
In a recent interview with The Colorado Observer, Nicholson shared his insider’s knowledge of the process and said that securing the financial commitment from corporate citizens as well as the community would be Denver’s primary challenge.
The other prerequisite to hosting the convention includes an infrastructure consisting of numerous hotel rooms available in early summer and reliable transportation, as well as a convention center to host the daily events and speeches.
“Denver obviously has the venue thing down cold,” said Nicholson, referring to the example set by the 2008 Democratic convention.
“Denver has so much to offer; people love to come to Colorado,” Nicholson said. “It could be at the end of July — the temperature will be lovely — and we have all that beautiful scenery and recreation assets that everyone in Colorado cherishes.”
With convention centers, sports arenas, Denver International Airport and light rail service, supporters say Denver is well equipped to host an event on the scale of a Republican National Convention that is expected to draw 50,000 attendees.
But Denver is facing tough competition from other cities in the western region that are considered to be the front-runners for the selection – Phoenix and Las Vegas. Also vying for the convention are Kansas City, Mo., Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Ind.
Interestingly, the effort to flood Denver with Republican activists is actually a bipartisan mission. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both Democrats, are working across the aisle to promote the Mile High City as the choice spot for the Grand Old Party.
“They recognize its importance and its advantages to the state and the economy and the pride of hosting another national convention, and being chosen to do that among other great competing cities,” Nicholson said. “As far as I know, they are being genuinely supportive.”
The Colorado Senate recently passed a unanimous resolution supporting the Republican convention bid.
Also, Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet wrote to the Republican Party last week touting Denver’s infrastructure and asking that the city be given “appropriate consideration.”
In addition to benefiting the state economically, Nicholson said it would give the party’s nominee a political boost.
“Colorado is a swing state, and historically the state where a convention has been held has gotten a four or five percent bump in the presidential elections,” Nicholson said.
“It has some really positive political potential as well for Republican (candidates) in Colorado,” Nicholson said.
The site selection committee will make their recommendations this fall then Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will make the final selection.
Asked if Republicans would seriously consider holding the convention in Nevada, the home state of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nicholson called it a “fair question” but added that it won’t be a deal killer for Republicans.
“They’re being very robust in their efforts to get the convention,” Nicholson said of Las Vegas’s efforts. “ I went through this as chairman of the party and we had extremely strong cities competing for the convention.”
“In 2000, I ended up selecting Philadelphia and what it really came down to was the money, the certainty of the money that Philadelphia was able to demonstrate, including a letter of credit to back up their fundraising,” Nicholson said.
“The money is very important,” Nicholson said. “They (RNC) have to be assured they will have the money it takes to put on the convention.”