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GOP picks Big Apple for 2004 convention

NYC beats New Orleans and Tampa-St. Petersburg

By John Mercuio
CNN Washington Bureau

NYC beats New Orleans and Tampa-St. Petersburg

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republicans Monday selected New York City as the site for their 2004 national convention, hoping the backdrop to President Bush's re-election campaign kickoff will help showcase his leadership since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"The wide range of venues, the enthusiasm of the city, and the strong business deal put New York over the top," said Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot in a written statement. "We believe New York will provide an outstanding backdrop to showcase our candidate and our party in 2004."

New York, which has never hosted a Republican convention, beat out two other sites: New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida. New York has hosted several Democratic conventions, most recently in 1992.

Republicans also hope to highlight political gains they have made in New York, a traditional Democratic stronghold. Republican Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001 -- following fellow Republican Rudy Giuliani's tenure -- and Republican George Pataki comfortably won a third term as governor in November. Still, some Republicans said some RNC officials were reluctant to choose New York because Bloomberg, a former Democrat, who is pushing to raise taxes to close the city's gaping budget shortfall, is a party maverick.

Choosing New York also will allow Republicans to highlight one of their favorite Democratic targets -- New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Additionally, if Giuliani decides to challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2004, he could benefit greatly from the party's decision to gather in the city that prospered greatly under his two terms in office.

Racicot and Ellen Williams, chairwoman of the site selection committee, made the announcement after a conference call in which the committee unanimously voted to recommend New York pending the successful completion of a contract with the city. Racicot then called Bloomberg to share the news.

If a site city agreement with New York is reached, the 165 members of the RNC will vote on the committee's recommendation at their annual winter meeting later this month in Washington.

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