GOP needs a Vegas vacation


Imagine the Republican National Convention coming to the Strip in July 2016, and the first image that comes to my mind is a sea of pale skin sizzling poolside. Whoever has the sunscreen concession is sure to make a killing.

After that, it’s the omnipresence of CNN’s great newsman Wolf Blitzer. And crowds of button-festooned citizens wearing odd hats and the grins of the converted.

And wonderfully loud and proud American political partisanship. And, uh, Wolf Blitzer.

And a greater concentration of security personnel than anywhere on the planet outside Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence. And, come to think of it, Wolf Blitzer again.

For the record, the 2016 Republican National Convention isn’t coming to Las Vegas yet. But an energetic contingent of promoters, calling itself Las Vegas 2016 Host Committee Inc., is busy banging drums on Nevada’s behalf. The committee is ably led by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.

They admit they have a lot to work with, but Krolicki and his comrades also make a strong case for Las Vegas as the best possible convention site. We regularly produce big conventions, offer 150,000 hotel rooms in a concentrated area, have innumerable dining, entertainment and sightseeing options. The Strip skyline also offers a stunning backdrop for endless convention updates by, you know, Wolf Blitzer.

The push to bring the convention to Las Vegas not only makes great sense, but — and this is important — the lobbying process also gives Krolicki something to do. If Krolicki’s name is unfamiliar to you, it’s probably because he has been the state’s second in command for around a decade. As such, he spends most of his day promoting tourism in a place with more tourism promoters per square mile than anywhere else.

In his spare time, Krolicki fights the urge to wish Gov. Brian Sandoval gets diagnosed with a mysterious medical malady that, while not fatal, compels him to step aside to seek treatment.

The battle for the 2016 RNC sounds like a perfect fit for Brian the Second.

During a meeting of the Review-Journal editorial board, Krolicki and three committee representatives stressed the potential of the convention’s economic and marketing impact on the Las Vegas community.

During the 2012 RNC in Tampa, for instance, 50,000 attendees and media members generated $404 million in economic stimulus and an estimated 10 billion worldwide media impressions. It would have been even more if thousands of Tampa conventioneers hadn’t been stuck on buses for hours at a time.

As the process enters the request-for-proposal stage with a site selection by the full Republican National Committee set for the summer of 2014, the Nevada committee is just starting to crank up its promotional effort. Not surprisingly, it’s being supported by major players on the Strip and in state politics.

Not even the hilariously petty squabbles inside Nevada’s schizophrenic Republican Party figure to prevent a big push for the big GOP dance here. And that’s a good thing.

Las Vegas can always use the business during its slower summer months, and landing a national convention might help the city shake its historic self-confidence issues when it comes to being “accepted” by the rest of the nation. But I think the Republican Party really needs a Vegas vacation.

In addition to lacking wide support from a broad voter demographic, the national GOP also suffers from a decided lack of sexy. You know what I’m talking about. Conservative politics and tea party celebrities swing like, well, Pat Boone on a black-and-white TV.

To regain the White House, I suspect the convention’s image-makers are going to have to remind Americans they are not your hawk-eyed uncle with the crewcut’s Republican Party anymore.

Now, tell me, what city is sexier than Las Vegas?

The potential competition for the convention includes Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Detroit. In fairness, it also includes Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix, Dallas and Orlando.

Do I need to start making with the Salt Lake City, Cleveland and Detroit jokes here? All right then.

Granted, there are still plenty of pesky details to iron out, including the actual Las Vegas venue. But in the Citizens United era, it’s nothing that can’t be resolved with a fat check from casino billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

With that out of the way, let me be the first to welcome Wolf Blitzer and the July 2016 Republican National Convention to Las Vegas.

Whatever you do, people, remember to use sunscreen.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.