Red Carpet For GOPsters

Seems that all went as well as it could in the red carpet treatment of the Republican National Convention site selection team who checked out Tampa and St. Petersburg last week. The key variable: the weather. The GOPsters mostly dodged the rain bullet, let alone the hurricane missile. Nor were local media in full, cone-of-Armageddon, drumbeat mode with nothing much going on except rip tides off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.

Then behind closed doors, the RNC team was told up front about hurricane possibilities. National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Bennett calculated the likelihood of a hurricane hitting the Tampa Bay Area in the Sept. 1-4 (2008) time frame was 2 percent. For good measure, it was less than subtly noted that the chances of that happening in New York were 1.7 percent. New York, of course, was chosen last time.

Because of hotels, Tropicana Field, the Gulf of Mexico, a vibrant downtown and visitor amenities, it was only proper that St. Petersburg share the stage — and stagecraft — with Tampa. It also helped underscore the numerous, eclectic venues available for convention attendees.

“It created in their minds all of the possibilities for their delegates,” said Karen Brand, vice president of communications for the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There were 400 official events the week of the last convention (’04 in New York). They’re interested in everything from corporate office space to museums to universities to yachts.”

One other thing: The site selection team went, as always, out of its way to avoid any direct clues that might hint of Tampa’s standing vis-a-vis the other finalists: New York, Minneapolis and Cleveland. And Jo Ann Davidson, a co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and head of the site selection team, reminded interested parties that for all the exuberance and hospitality, it was still a “business” decision.

Hopefully, Karl Rove will get the memo this time.

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