St. Paul nightlife still in Minneapolis' shadow during the RNCby Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
It appears that even though St. Paul's Excel Energy Center is the site of the Republican National Convention, it's Minneapolis that's playing host to the conventioneers. That's where most of the private parties are taking place and where the majority of Republican delegates and supporters are staying.
St. Paul, Minn. — Make no mistake, our Republican visitors are quite impressed with Minneapolis-St. Paul. Some, like Gary Perry of Montana, are so enthusiastic it might make an upper midwesterner suspicious.
"We love it," Perry said. "It's like being in Montana, but without mountains."
Perry chatted up some Minnesotans he met at the AgNite party in Minneapolis Tuesday night. His wife, Lisa, was a little more tentative in her praise of the host city, or cities.
"It's a nice place to spend four or five days," she said. "We get such a limited, kind of a protected vision of the Twin Cities."
Perry said many of their activities were planned ahead of time and there haven't been many chances to get out and really explore. Perry said there's been a definite pattern during their brief stay.
"We go to St. Paul for business, for the convention, and we come back here for fun at night," she said.
If St. Paul had a marketing plan touting its nighttime attractions to incoming Republicans, it didn't reach Christopher Smith of Rhode Island. Smith is making Minneapolis his home base during the convention.
"If you're an outsider you're like, 'okay, well, I don't know where to go, but it seems like everything's in Minneapolis so that's the best place to start off,'"Smith said. "I watch TV and I don't see like St. Paul, it's all Minneapolis. If I went to St. Paul I wouldn't know what to do, where to go or what to think."
Geography may be the problem, at least according to Reihan Salam. The young Republican author and editor for the Atlantic magazine said convention goers based in Minneapolis may be reluctant to make the trek to St. Paul.
"Because you hear people," Salam said." They say' Hey let's party! Oh! Hey! Oh! 20-minute drive, oh, still want to party? Oh now we're tired. Oh no. Oh and we spent so much on gas.' Gas prices are a big republican issue this cycle. But you know it's a big problem and it resonates with deeper Republican themes so there you have it."
Not everybody in Minneapolis has benefitted from the convention boon. Jeremiah Abebe normally drives his cab to and from the airport, but has been cruising the streets of downtown Minneapolis during the RNC. Abebe said he's made a little more money then normal but not nearly as much as the cab drivers he's spoken to from Denver, which hosted the Democratic convention.
"In my opinion the Republicans have more money so they have their own transportation provided like limos, like town cars and busses," he said. "So I guess they spend their money more in higher quality stuff than cabs."
Many St. Paul business owners have said they feel let down by the convention. And while St. Paulites are used to hearing their city stands in the shadow of Minneapolis in terms of nightlife, that doesn't ease the disappointment of somebody like David Eckart. It's 2 a.m., and Eckart is standing in front of Alary's bar in downtown St. Paul.
"St. Paul is dead," he said. "To be honest with you it's dead."
And nothing can revive it?
"Well, I thought this would jump start it," he said. "I really did. I thought the convention would jump start it and, I don't know, it's been beating a dead horse."
Eckart, who works downtown for the State Department of Revenue said, with a blockaded Xcel Energy Center, cops everywhere on foot, on bikes and in cars, and protesters creating havoc, the convention's potential to give St. Paul a boost has gone down the drain.
- Morning Edition, 09/04/2008, 7:53 a.m.