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No Republican convention for 2016, or maybe ever

So, it’s no Republican convention for Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas 2016 Host Committee officially elected to “defer our bid effort to the 2020 Republican National Convention opportunity,” according to a letter sent to the chairwoman of the GOP’s site selection committee.

It turns out the Republicans were looking for a traditional arena, not the custom-designed setup Las Vegas planners had envisioned at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not only that, but the requirement to have the facility vacant for a month and a half prior to the convention was just not viable.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the host committee. “I’m proud of the profile we generated as a result of this process. It was a great exercise.”

And while Krolicki didn’t say it, it’s still true: Technically, the RNC didn’t reject Las Vegas. Technically, we said no thank you. It’s like when you send a Facebook friend request to a person who doesn’t respond, and you end up withdrawing that request before they can officially reject it.

Up until this week, things were looking better. Las Vegas made the first cut in early April, when Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, were dropped from consideration. But after a site visit that included a technical crew, Las Vegas’ host committee members realized they wouldn’t be able to accommodate the RNC’s requirements.

And that raises the question of whether the city will ever be able to host a political convention.

MGM Resorts International is building an arena that could host the event, but does it make sense for the company to agree to such a long preparation period leading up to the convention date? Not only that, but the security perimeter necessary to pull off a convention could play havoc with the company’s nearby hotels.

A UNLV stadium — assuming one is funded and built by that time — might meet the arena requirements, but would be subject to the same security problems.

And the venerable convention center — which hosts hundreds of thousands of convention-goers every year, and can be set up in custom designs that would easily accommodate a political convention — just can’t go dark for the five to six weeks that the Republican National Committee needed as lead time. (In fact, the convention center is booking events for 2020 and beyond right now.) For that matter, few venues in Las Vegas could afford that much downtime.

Krolicki wasn’t quite ready to forgo all hope for a Las Vegas political convention in the future, however. “I believe there could be [a convention], but it’s attenuated to the variables of the day,” he said.

There are a lot of variables, too. Las Vegas is the No. 1 trade show destination in the world, according to the Trade Show News Network. We host 22,000 meetings, conventions and trade shows every year, including 53 of the largest 250 shows, more than any other single destination in America. And while other cities in the United States may need a political convention to get attention, Las Vegas gets plenty of attention without ever having hosted a political convention.

That’s not to say Las Vegas wouldn’t have benefited from having the RNC’s event here, or that the media attention wouldn’t have been welcome. For a city that’s king of conventions, having either party’s nominating event in Las Vegas would be a crowning achievement.

The withdrawal of Las Vegas (and also Cincinnati) leaves front-runner Dallas vying against Cleveland, Denver and Kansas City as potential sites for the RNC in 2016. And while all those cities have their charms (think football, rock and roll fame, omelets and barbecue, respectively), none are Las Vegas.

Yes, Las Vegas may have lost out. But so did the delegates to the next Republican convention.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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