COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is putting his muscle behind a bid by Columbus to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, even as the powerful U.S. House Speaker said he favors a different Ohio city close to his home district.
Columbus' leaders incorporated an endorsement letter from the movie star and politician into their bid presentation Monday in Washington. It joins two other Ohio cities — Cleveland and Cincinnati — in field of eight finalists.
Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor of California, wrote that Columbus has been "an extremely successful" location for his annual Arnold Sports Festival. The event has grown since the 1970s from a one-day men's bodybuilding competition to the largest multi-sport fitness festival in the world.
"This is an event that other cities covet, but it remains in Columbus. Why? Because Columbus accommodates the Arnold Festival with venues, hotel rooms, transportation and visitor amenities for 175,000 visitors from around the world," Schwarzenegger wrote. "And Columbus stands out against competing cities because of its widespread community collaboration to accommodate visitors and hold successful events."
Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from the state's southwest corner, told The Enquirer newspaper on Monday that he favors Cincinnati, nearest of the cities to his home district. Cincinnati's scheduled bid presentation was among several that had to be postponed Monday due to weather.
Boehner told editors at the newspaper that he'd "absolutely" like to see it in Cincinnati and had planned a meeting Tuesday with the Cincinnati delegation to discuss the city's proposal before learning of the delay.
He expressed concern that three Ohio cities are competing for the event: "I don't think that helps our chances."
Boehner said he has no vote on the Republican National Committee, but that the panel's chairman, Reince Priebus, is a good friend.
"I can blow in his ear," Boehner said.
Brent Larkin, an influential columnist for the Northeast Ohio Media Group in Cleveland, opined over the weekend that Cleveland has an "enormous advantage" over the other two cities and should be the logical selection if it plays its cards right.
He wrote that losing out to Columbus, in particular, would be "humiliating and inexcusable."
"Columbus has a couple places worth visiting. Cleveland has a couple dozen," he wrote. "Downtown offers the largest theater district (Playhouse Square) outside of New York, scenic tours of the lake and river, the Rock Hall, Science Center and a casino. Just minutes away is one of the greatest cultural centers (University Circle) on the planet, the West Side Market and — like Columbus — a world-class zoo."
The Cleveland area is a Democratic stronghold and is home to Democratic gubernatorial contender Ed FitzGerald
Other cities in contention to host the event are Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.