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Opinion

Republicans must look to Cleveland to expand 2016 presidential chances

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Republican Party,Democratic Party,Ohio,Texas,2016 Elections,Cleveland,Electoral College,Dallas

Republican National Committee officials announced recently that the party's nominating convention for the next presidential election will be held in Cleveland or Dallas.

“These world-class cities have the ability to provide our next presidential nominee a launching pad that will put a Republican in the White House in 2016,” said site-selection chairman Enid Mickelsen.

Given the ultimate goal, the GOP's big bash should be in Ohio. A lot more than one election is riding on the next campaign for the Oval Office.

After losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, many of the Republican faithful are wondering whether the party establishment is still capable of winning nationally.

In recent years, Republicans have been adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, losing to President Obama in 2012 even though his job-approval rating was below 50 percent, and failing to take back the Senate in 2010 or 2012 despite favorable odds.

The Grand Old Party will lose again if it doesn't do something differently. The Dallas area is a conservative stronghold, but the GOP is assured of winning Texas in 2016.

The Lone Star State has gone GOP in nine straight presidential elections since 1980, when challenger Ronald Reagan beat President Carter by more than half a million votes, putting Texas in the red column to the present.

But staying in this safe zone won't help the GOP's takeover chances in two years. Republicans desperately need to expand their base as the electoral map favors Democrats.

With New York, California and other large states reliably voting blue, Democrats will start the next election season only needing to pick up 28 Electoral College votes to win.

Republicans, on the other hand, will have to find 100 scarce toss-up electoral votes. Reaching beyond the South for new support is key to reversing the GOP’s dwindling electoral position.

The Great Lakes region is a target-rich environment, and Ohio is the center of this Rust Belt heartland. The Buckeye State's 18 Electoral College votes are central to victory plans for both parties because it is a bellwether swing state that has gone with the winning candidate in 11 straight elections.

The last time Ohio wasn’t with the majority was 54 years ago, when the state voted for Richard Nixon in his squeaker loss to John Kennedy in 1960.

An important factor in Cleveland’s candidacy for the 2016 Republican National Convention is its appeal and similarity to neighbors, which trend toward the right at the state level.

Despite voting for Obama in the past two cycles, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — like Ohio — have Republican majorities in both houses of their state legislatures and conservative governors.

Flipping this group for president in 2016 would gain 64 electoral votes and neutralize the Democrats’ head start in the race.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's work to cut taxes and deliver budget surpluses has turned around an industrial state hit hard by the Great Recession of 2008.

That makes his home state a solid model for what conservative fiscal policies could achieve in Washington.

Since Abraham Lincoln in 1860, no Republican has been elected president without winning Ohio, and 2016 will be no different.

The GOP needs to show it is serious about retaking the state and the Midwest by holding its next national convention in Cleveland.

Brett M. Decker is consulting director at the White House Writers Group. Van D. Hipp Jr., is chairman of American Defense International and was formerly a member of the Electoral College and chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
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