Gov. Jeb Bush has essentially bowed out of the picture. He said this week he will not pick up the phone and call his brother in the White House to promote Tampa.
He told reporters if the choice of President Bush, political adviser Karl Rove and Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot is New York, he will support that decision. New Orleans is also a finalist but Tampa and New York are the heavy favorites.
"At the end of the day, they will do what is in the best interest of our great president, and I will do that as well. I am a loyal soldier in his army as it relates to his political career," Jeb Bush said.
Bush said the White House has told him a conference call will be held Thursday to discuss the decision, expected within 10 days.
New York is considered a strong candidate because it offers a logical story line within the war against terrorism and the symbolism connected to the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Florida was the ultimate swing state in 2000 -- giving the president his final margin in electoral college when he won Florida by 537 voters -- and it could be again. The attention focused on the Republicans by having the convention in the state could help.
"You can see both sides of that," Bush said. "I hate to sound political, but really, the symbolism of New York is a very powerful reminder of my brother's leadership, and Florida's a really important state and will be in 2004.
"New York and California are difficult states for Republicans nationwide, and Florida's got to be part of the equation. You be the judge of which state's more important," the governor said.
Bush said he thought the competition was "neck and neck."
Tampa area officials are hopeful. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., met with White House officials last week and is "cautiously optimistic."
Putnam said the governor "is doing everything as the chief cheerleader for Florida without putting the president in an uncomfortable position."
Paul Catoe, president of the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of the behind-the-scenes leaders of the Florida effort, said he is just waiting now.
"We've done what they asked us to do. Right now we are sitting here waiting to see what happens," he said. "I don't think there's a city that wants it any worse than this one."
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