COLUMBUS — A circus-like atmosphere complete with jugglers on stilts, a mime who dropped character at the sight of a microphone, street musicians, and costumed team mascots today greeted members of a screening committee in town to judge Columbus as potential host for the next Democratic National Convention.
The city set out to put the best face possible on its bid to make 2016 a twofer for Ohio, with Republicans already having selected Cleveland for their next presidential convention.
“I’m glad the Republicans are coming to Cleveland. I'm glad the Democrats are coming to Columbus,” former Gov. Ted Strickland told the crowd of several hundred gathered to welcome the Democratic National Committee team outside the doors of Nationwide Arena, the likely focal point of a Columbus convention.
“What a contrast the people of Ohio and the people America will see as they look at the corresponding different policies that come out of those 2016 conventions,” Mr. Strickland said.
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The screening committee was quickly escorted into the arena without participating in the events. The committee was in town to judge the arena's suitability for the actual convention where the party’s candidate would be formally nominated.
Over two days they will visit area hotels downtown and in the city’s outskirts, talk transportation logistics, and look at the Arena District and the trendy Short North nearby as the centerpiece for restaurants and other activities for conventioneers.
The city hosted committee members at a reception later today. DNC Executive Director Amy Dacey plans to talk to reporters Thursday at the visit's close.
Columbus is competing with Philadelphia; Phoenix; Brooklyn, N.Y., and Birmingham, Ala. With the exception of New York, all of the competing states have Republican governors.
Once it won the Republican National Convention, Cleveland was obligated to drop its bid for the Democratic convention and threw its support behind Columbus in hopes of landing the Ohio sweep in 2016.
“They may nominate a president in Cleveland, but we will elect a president in Columbus,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, a state representative from Catawba Island.
A final decision is still months away.