GOP Chooses New York City for Its 2004 Convention

Times Staff Writer

In a symbolic embrace of a city still healing from Sept. 11, the Republican Party chose New York City on Monday to host the party's 2004 presidential nominating convention.

Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg welcomed the decision as a "tremendous boost" for New York, calling the city "exactly the right place for the president and the Republican Party."

Gov. George Pataki, a fellow Republican, said the choice was "yet another sign of the confidence people have in New York and sends a message to America and the world that New York is back."

New Orleans and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., were the runners-up.

The convention, which will draw a national television audience along with thousands of delegates, journalists and political activists, will be held Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at Madison Square Garden. Democrats have already announced plans to hold their convention beginning July 26 in Boston.

New York had long been a sentimental favorite to host the GOP gathering, despite the city's 5-to-1 Democratic registration edge. At one point after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks there was talk of both major parties coming to the city, in a show of support and solidarity.

The Republicans made their decision Monday morning after a conference call in which the party's Site Selection Committee voted unanimously to choose New York, pending completion of a contract with the city. The choice is expected to be ratified during the annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, which starts Jan. 29 in Washington.

The gathering will mark the first time Republicans have convened in New York City. Democrats have held five conventions there, the last one in 1992.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer demurred when asked whether a New York City convention might help President Bush carry the state, which he lost to Al Gore in 2000 in a 60% to 35% Democratic landslide.

"I think that others more expert in politics can tell you whether New York is winnable or not for the president, but the president would very much like to, if he decides to run for reelection, carry his campaign throughout the country," Fleischer said.

His caution was well-placed; recent history has shown little correlation between conventions and presidential candidate success. Republicans, for instance, held their conventions in San Diego and Philadelphia in 1996 and 2000, respectively, and months later lost California and Pennsylvania in the general election. Democrats staged their 1988 convention in Atlanta and lost Georgia anyway.

Pataki and Bloomberg -- who was a Democrat until shortly before he entered the New York mayor's race -- are considerably more moderate than Bush, befitting the state's leftward tilt.

Despite their success, "there is little in the recent voting behavior of New York to make you suspect Republicans could carry it" in 2004, outside of a national GOP landslide, said Robert Loevy, a presidential campaign expert at Colorado College.


Times staff writers Josh Getlin in New York and Maura Reynolds in Washington contributed to this report.

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