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Bet on Vegas for GOP convention

Updated: March 27, 2014 6:33AM



Consider the following cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

In which city would you like to spend four days in June or July engaged in mindless behavior and no meaningful activity, often leading to drunken stupor?

In other words, which city should the Republican National Committee choose for its presidential nominating convention in 2016?

All the cities above have expressed some interest in hosting the convention, and many have already met with Republican officials to make presentations. Las Vegas is said by some to be the front-runner.

Why Las Vegas? First, there is the process of elimination: Dallas, Denver and Kansas City already have hosted conventions.

Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus are located in the crucial swing state of Ohio, but in the public mind, they have one drawback: They are Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.

Phoenix has an average monthly high temperature in June of — I kid you not — 104 degrees. Plus, if the convention were to be held in Phoenix, John McCain might ramble out onstage and tell everybody to get off his lawn.

Salt Lake City would be an intriguing choice. It is the headquarters of the Mormon church; it hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics; it is known as “The Crossroads of the West”; and it is the industrial banking center of America.

But Salt Lake City’s motto is: “We’re just like Las Vegas — but without any of the fun.”

Which leaves Vegas. Many cities would have trouble accommodating the 50,000 or so poor souls who are forced to go to political conventions. Vegas does not even blink at that number. (Las Vegas is Spanish, by the way, for “Hiya, suckers!”) The Consumer Electronics Show, held in Vegas each January, draws 150,000 people, which Vegas handles easily, and it is already building more hotels.

True, Vegas’ average high temperature in June is 100 degrees. But the heatstroke you get is a dry heatstroke. Also, Vegas does not have any major league sports teams, which is a big plus because the schedules of major league teams often can interfere with the convention schedule.

Vegas has legal gambling, including more than 195,000 slot machines, or about four slots for each convention attendee. The slots draw people with an almost mystical fascination: “Hey, look, a machine that I can put $50 into, which, over an hour, will return $25 to me! Who can pass that up?”

Las Vegas is no longer the Sin City it was, because all of America now sins in similar ways. So-called riverboat casinos — which are better-designed for sinking like rocks than floating down rivers — Indian casinos, state and national lotteries, bingo games in churches, and neighborhood bookies who will give you (long) odds that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year abound in this country.

So why shouldn’t the Republican Party want to go there? I was in Vegas about two weeks ago, and all I saw in the casinos were hundreds of people sitting at slot machines, wearing T-shirts and shorts — slabs of flesh peeking out between the two — while sipping free drinks and smoking.

Yes, you can smoke in Vegas casinos. True, you can’t smoke in the casino restaurants, but they will be glad to prepare carryout meals that you can take back to the slot machines with you, so you can eat, smoke, drink and lose money all at the same time.

And when you think about it, is this not the freedom that Republicans promise us?

Do what you want! Nobody in Vegas is going to tell you not to smoke. Nobody is going to suggest you eat fruits and vegetables instead of pizzas and Chicken McNuggets. And if you want to lose the rent money at the craps tables, hey, that’s your business.

What I saw in Vegas were a bunch of older white people seeking enormous wealth. What could be more Republican than that?

Besides, the Republican Party’s spiritual icon — Ronald Reagan — played Vegas on Feb. 15, 1954, at the Last Frontier casino. He did a stand-up comedy act featuring a team of chimpanzees. (Reagan’s 1951 movie, “Bedtime for Bonzo,” had featured a chimp and was a big success.) Reagan would go on to make a dozen more movies after “Bonzo” and also do television. But he longed for something more dignified — such as politics.

And Vegas has something else going for it. Many cities have made fancy presentations to members of the Republican National Committee, but Vegas has an ace in the hole.

“I’m looking for good hotels, access to the convention site, a good convention site and sufficient financial resources,” John Ryder, the general counsel of the RNC, told The Washington Post. “Anybody can put together a booth, a hospitality suite and a gift bag. Show me the money.”

When I read that, I knew Vegas had this thing wrapped up. It is the American city that is all about the money. It’s going to be Las Vegas in 2016, baby.

I’ll give you 2-1 odds on it.



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