The 1992 Republican National Convention is now almost a certainty for San Diego, key GOP sources said Wednesday, mainly because the White House is nervous about political fallout surrounding newly elected governor Ann Richards in Texas and former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke in Louisiana.
Representatives from Houston, New Orleans and San Diego--the cities competing for the August convention--completed interviews with the GOP’s Site Selection Committee this week in Washington, and San Diego, sources say, emerged as the overwhelming favorite.
Despite logistic and aesthetic concerns involving the Convention Center and San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, where a portion of the convention would be staged outdoors for the first time, sources say California’s pluses far outweigh the negatives of Houston and New Orleans.
“San Diego is not just a front-runner but is in the commanding position,” said a GOP source from California, who asked not to be identified. “At this point, the convention is San Diego’s to lose.”
Factors working against Houston include the recent gubernatorial victory of Democrat Ann Richards, who, at her party’s 1988 convention, delivered a speech that many in GOP circles considered a vicious personal attack on President Bush.
“It was the one where she said he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” a source said.
The actual remark referred to Bush being born with a “silver foot in his mouth.”
Richards made the comments during a speech in which she quoted a letter from a young mother in Lorena, Tex. The mother spoke of the difficulty in making ends meet in modern American life--in paying for braces, college, tennis shoes, car insurance and food.
Speaking to Democrats at their ’88 convention in Atlanta, Richards said Bush was out of touch with the needs of most Americans.
“Nothing’s wrong with you that you can’t fix in November,” she said. “For eight straight years, George Bush hasn’t displayed the slightest interest in anything we care about. And now that he’s after a job he can’t get appointed to, he’s like Columbus discovering America--he’s found child care, he’s found education.
“Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
After the November election, Houston’s chances dimmed considerably, sources said, because of Richards’ victory over Republican Clayton Williams--for whom Bush actively and enthusiastically campaigned.
Despite having one of the best possible sites in the New Orleans Superdome, that city’s chances have been hurt by the specter of state legislator David Duke, a former Klan member who recently lost in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
Sources say the White House is “nervous” about Duke, who might run for governor or even as a third-party presidential candidate in 1992.
Ernest Angelo, a ranking member of the Republican National Committee for Texas, conceded Wednesday that San Diego is “now way out in front” although he maintained that Houston is the best choice “by far.”
Another GOP source said many in the Republican National Committee favor Houston, the President’s hometown, but the White House--in particular, top Bush adviser John Sununu--have made no secret of their preference for San Diego.
“I think it ought to go wherever the White House wants it to,” Angelo said from his office in Midland, Tex. “And, when I say the White House, I mean the President. If that’s San Diego, that’s fine with me.”
In addition to Sununu, San Diego is backed by Sig Rogich, another of the President’s advisers, who several months ago asked Mayor Maureen O’Connor, a Democrat, to have her city submit a bid.
Paul Downey, the mayor’s press secretary, said Wednesday that meetings with the Site Selection Committee in Washington earlier this week went “very well,” but Downey cautioned against San Diego celebrating prematurely.
“They wanted to know if we could handle two sites (the Convention Center and stadium), and we assured them we could,” Downey said. “We felt it was a good session. They did not give us any indication whether we were ahead of or behind the others. At this point, we’re approaching it as if we’re the underdog. But we’re doing everything we can to convince them to come to San Diego, and I think we’ve impressed them with our can-do attitude.”
Downey said the only time any portion of a major political convention was staged outdoors was John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960. He said the city has wrapped up details surrounding hotel rooms and meeting space and is zeroing in on remaining technical and aesthetic problems. Most of those involve sight lines inside the Convention Center being blocked by the building’s floor-to-ceiling columns.
At this point, 1992 figures to be what Downey called a “happening” year in San Diego. The city is playing host to the America’s Cup sailing regatta, two major arts festivals, the Baseball All-Star Game and has recently been mentioned as the possible site of Super Bowl XXVII in January of ’93 should Phoenix lose out because of its controversy surrounding a holiday in memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.