updated 9/27/2006 6:51:35 PM ET 2006-09-27T22:51:35

Republicans have chosen the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul -- in the politically pivotal Midwest -- for the 2008 presidential convention, GOP officials said Wednesday.

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The selection was expected to be announced later in the day, said the Republican officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The convention is slated for Sept. 1-4.

Losing out were New York City, Cleveland and a joint bid from Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., other cities that had sought the convention.

The four-day event will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild.

Political decision
By choosing the Twin Cities for 2008, the GOP will ensure plenty of news converge in media markets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa -- all battleground states in the 2004 election and ones expected to be competitive in the next presidential race.

Minnesota had been seen by some as an unlikely host, with just 10 electoral votes and the nation's longest streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates.

In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won the state 51 percent to 48 percent. The last Republican to win a presidential race in the state was Richard Nixon in 1972 and the last national convention happened in 1892, when the GOP backed President Benjamin Harrison in an unsuccessful re-election bid.

But Minnesota's national image as a traditional Democratic bastion has become outdated and the state was a hard-fought battleground in 2004 and 2000. Republicans hope to court voters in a region Republican and Democratic strategists alike say will play a critical role in winning the White House in 2008.

Democrats' choice still pending
The Twin Cities, located along the Mississippi River, also are in the running for the 2008 Democratic convention. Democrats plan to hold their convention Aug. 25-28.

The Democrats, who last met in Boston, will announce a decision later this fall. A spokesman said 11 sites expressed interest in having the party's convention, but only four completed the proposals. New Orleans later withdrew its bid, leaving Denver, New York City and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The GOP held its last convention in New York City, a Democratic stronghold where GOP delegates nominated President Bush for a second term.

In Minnesota, the effort to woo a national political convention has been a bipartisan affair, with the two big-city mayors, both Democrats, joining forces with top Republicans. They argued that Minnesota is a critical part of an Upper Midwest region that combined offers 27 electoral votes.

State officials have predicted a national political convention would boost the Twin Cities economy by about $150 million.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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