by Mitch Perry
Republican National Committee members are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the three - count 'em - three bids to host the 2012 Republican National Convention, and the city of Tampa is looking better as the potential host by the day.
For those keeping tabs, Tampa has always been the favorite, simply on the grounds that the RNC would seriously alienate the Republican Party of Florida by dissing the city for the third time around, after rejecting it for New York City for the 2004 convention, and the Twin Cities in 2008.
But Tampa's already good chances have increased in the past two weeks, as Phoenix has effectively removed itself from contention. Simply said, there is no palatable way the RNC can choose the desert community in the wake of the visceral reaction to the immigration bill that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed last month. That's despite the best laid attempts by conservatives to lash out at the media and Democrats, who they claim have wildly misrepresented what the bill actually does.
Whether that's accurate or not, the perception amongst not just the media but some high profile Republicans (such as Jeb Bush, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Fort Myers Congressman Connie Mack) indicates that on optics alone, the bill may go too far.
Among the calls for boycotting Arizona, there is growing pressure on Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to react one way or another to the request to move the 2011 All-Star game from Phoenix (and the Phoenix Suns will be making a political statement of their own Wednesday night when they play Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals by having "Los Suns" put on the front of their uniforms).
Conservatives can point to national polls (such as the NY Times/CBS News) that show Americans showing support for the controversial legislation as proof that the media might be overreacting, but the fact of the matter is MLB is increasingly a game played by Latino players, and several of them (such as San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez) don't like what they've heard about it.
As countless political observers have noted, Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the country, and even though many of them may agree on controversial stances like the Arizona bill, the GOP's recent historic harsh rhetoric against Latinos (in California for example) is something that party leaders are striving not to repeat.
Critics may accuse the RNC of being too "politically correct", and some might say with the polls showing support, the Republicans can make a powerful statement by naming "the valley of the sun" as the 2012 host.
But really, do you think that will actually happen? It was already looking like Florida's turn, and only Salt Lake City remains in its path from the Tampa Bay region hosting its first political convention.