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Decision on Tampa's 2012 GOP convention bid due Wednesday

Shhhhh. Don't say anything to jinx Tampa's bid for the 2012 GOP convention.

The recommendation on where to hold the party convention is expected Wednesday, and the conventional wisdom is that it's Tampa's to lose. Still, local boosters remember how optimistic they were before Tampa lost out on the 2008 and 2004 GOP conventions.

"I'm afraid to say how I feel. We've waited so long and we've been disappointed before," said Al Austin, chairman of Tampa's host committee. "I'm trying to keep my mind clear and not think about it. There isn't a darn thing we can do until the decision's made."

The choice is down to Tampa, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, and the Republican National Committee's site selection committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday between 2 and 3 p.m. at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Prince George's County, Md. Area boosters intend to gather in Tampa and nervously await the phone call.

"If we don't get it, you'll have a story to write about me jumping out of the 21st story of the SunTrust building," said Paul Catoe, executive director of Tampa Bay & Co., Hillsborough County's convention and visitors bureau.

The site selection committee's pick must be ratified by the full Republican National Committee this summer, but that is expected to be pro forma.

Nothing is certain until the vote is taken, but the speculation from Tampa Bay to Washington to Salt Lake City is that Tampa is the front-runner. NBC's First Read political blog summed up the conventional wisdom:

"With Latinos boycotting Arizona, and with (Mitt) Romney still considered the GOP front-runner (just how many stories on the Mormon Church would the media do if Republicans held their convention in Salt Lake with Romney as the nominee?), it seemingly looks like Tampa is going to be the pick by process of elimination."

Deborah Cox-Roush of Tampa, vice chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida, was in the Washington area Monday for party meetings and was lobbying for Tampa, along with other Florida officials.

"I'm using every chance I can get to keep Tampa in their minds," she said. "It's going great."

Unlike prior years, the host committee is seeking no funding from pinched local governments. Instead, the budget calls for $40 million raised privately from the bipartisan host committee, a grant of about $18 million to the RNC from the Federal Election Commission, and $50 million appropriated from Congress for security.

"As for any speculation on who might be in first place, that is all speculation," said RNC spokesman Doug Heye.

Times staff writers Alex Leary and Janet Zink contributed to this report.

Decision on Tampa's 2012 GOP convention bid due Wednesday 05/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2010 11:18pm]

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