U looks ahead to GOP convention

by Karlee Weinmann

The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that the Minneapolis-St. Paul tandem will be host cities for its 2008 presidential nominating convention.

While the University will be near the convention, it is unclear at this point how, if at all, the University will participate in related events.

Despite being dubbed a “purple state,” a bipartisan battleground, RNC spokesman Aaron McLear said choosing Minnesota was strictly a business decision.

Transportation, infrastructure and security were among the factors taken into consideration when the RNC evaluated its options, he said.

The Minnesota Host Committee, made up of RNC members, has yet to iron out convention details. The committee will be responsible for fine-tuning and coordinating convention logistics beginning in early 2007.

The RNC will continue to send representatives to the Twin Cities to evaluate options and start site-specific planning, McLear said.

The University plans to be involved in convention plans, said spokesman Dan Wolter, though there currently are no agreements.

Like many other organizations, the University cannot determine exactly how it will be used until the Minnesota Host Committee lays out more specific groundwork for the convention, he said.

Regents’ Professor Ed Schuh said the Twin Cities can expect attention that will put the University in the national – and international – spotlight.

“(The convention) will give the ‘U’ more global visibility, there’s not doubt about that,” he said.

Schuh, also director of the Freeman Center for International Economic Policy, said the national and international focus on the Twin Cities will work in the metro area’s favor, highlighting what the cities have to offer in terms of scenic locale and culture.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and his Minneapolis counterpart, R.T. Rybak, both Democrats, learned early in the year of the GOP’s interest in hosting the event in the Twin Cities.

The Democratic National Convention committee had also expressed interest in the Twin Cities hosting its 2008 convention.

The Democrats’ proposal called for direct and immediate University involvement, with on-campus housing requested for party delegates traveling to the convention looking to save on accommodations.

Because the GOP convention falls later than that of the Democrats, University housing will already be occupied by students when the convention commences Sept. 1.

Wolter listed meeting spaces, on-campus facilities and artistic venues as ways the University is prepared to showcase its offerings.

University professor Larry Jacobs, director of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs’ Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said the convention will give the University a chance to increase awareness of its own research on democratic America.

“I think it’ll be a really wonderful occasion for the University to share the national stage,” he said.

Karyn Gruenberg, vice president of marketing and communications of Meet Minneapolis, said the convention is expected to draw between 30,000 and 45,000 people.

“We are going to have a world-renowned event that’s going to garner lots of people visiting our cities in what would normally be a dry (tourism) period,” she said. “It’s going to mean a lot for Minneapolis and St. Paul.”