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Republican National Convention

In 1976, the heart of the nation, Kansas City, hosted one of the most hotly contested Republican National Conventions in modern history, literally dividing the party between establishment Republicans backing Ford and the fiscal conservatives supporting Reagan. While the Republicans ultimately gave the nod to President Ford, Governor Reagan delivered his “shining city on the hill” concession speech that would later launch him into the Presidency against Carter in 1980. Missouri is well known for being a swing state and Kansas represented a strong Republican foothold, but ultimately Missouri and Kansas City alike would choose Jimmy Carter over President Ford for the next President of the United States.

That was the last convention where Republican infighting led to a split within the party until 2012, where the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, faced opponents from all wings of the party. Such divisive politics is fundamental to selecting the best nominee for the party to succeed in the general election. But the strategy to win over swing votes in 2012 by hosting the convention in Tampa Bay, Florida worked out the same way it did in 1976 in Kansas City: the swing state swung the other way.

40 years later, Kansas City would like to usher in the new Republican convention for 2016, bringing up to $50 million in new revenue to the city and surrounding metropolitan area. The Sprint Center would be an ideal convention hall and the new downtown trolley system could bring delegates to and fro to enjoy what the city has to offer. Mayor Sly James fully supports the idea but acknowledges tough competing cities such as New Orleans and Las Vegas. Vegas, with its plentiful hotels and entertainment, would be the toughest challenger to Kansas City in this bid, but the Republican Central Committee could choose to reinvigorate its base in a stronghold like Kansas, but still appeal to the swing-state voters in Missouri. What will bode best for the Republican Party will reveal itself in due time.

Now, the Republicans have an opportunity to change history in Kansas City, to make a decisive selection for the Presidential nominee. The question is: will the Republicans choose the establishment candidate, like Ford, or bring on the new ideas and energy, like Reagan?


Ryan Flowers, 9/13/2013


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