WASHINGTON - A Republican National Committee panel recommended Cleveland to host the Republican Party's 2016 presidential convention.
The Republicans' site selection committee met Tuesday to review the two remaining cities - Dallas and Cleveland.
The full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month.
Ohio is a perennially hard-fought state in presidential campaigns. No Republican has captured the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The last candidate to win the White House without Ohio was John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1960.
Denver made the final four list of cities, but was not named one of the final two.
The every-four-years event is a logistical challenge, but one that is hotly pursued.
The plans are for the GOP convention to begin on June 27 or July 18, 2016.
Paying for the convention was the top criterion for the 12-member site selection committee. The previous two GOP conventions have sapped party dollars during election years and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has insisted the host city not leave the central party picking up the tab, which is expected to be around $60 million.
Officials involved in the process who described the deliberations insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the internal process publicly by name.
In proposals and presentations to the party, city officials outlined how each would raise the tens of millions of dollars required to pay for the week-long rally for the party faithful. A successful convention is a boon not just to the political party, but also to the local economy.
In a post-convention report, organizers of Tampa, Florida's 2012 GOP convention said its $58 million in fundraising resulted in a $214 million direct economic impact. Some 50,000 activists, officials and reporters descended on the Tampa area for the convention, officials said. More journalists visited Tampa for the GOP convention in 2012 than visited in 2009 when Tampa hosted the Super Bowl.
That economic impact is one reason cities have been competing for months to host the convention.
Organizers earlier eliminated bids from Denver; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The RNC dispatched advisers to Cleveland last week for a second visit to review technical aspects of a potential convention there, officials said.
The RNC panel did not send a technical team back to Dallas.
In addition to the finances, officials are focused on each city's transportation and hotel plans. Tampa's convention forced many delegates — including major donors — into hotels an hour from the convention site and was reliant on buses.
Timing, too, was a factor for officials.
Priebus wants the convention scheduled for early summer of 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm. That would give the GOP's next presidential nominee quicker access to tens of millions of dollars in general election cash.
Democrats, meanwhile, are on their own timeline for picking a venue. Democratic National Committee officials will begin site visits on July 21 to Birmingham, Alabama. Other cities in contention are New York City; Philadelphia; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to announce a host city either late this year or early in 2015.