ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Political leaders in Missouri expressed disappointment Tuesday after learning that the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be in Charlotte, N.C., not St. Louis.
The decision came down to electoral politics, several officials said, evidence that President Obama plans to aggressively compete in traditionally Republican states in the South. Three Midwestern cities -- St. Louis, Cleveland and Minneapolis -- were the other finalists.
Missouri Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Montee said the final decision came down to Charlotte and St. Louis.
"There are some things that we didn't have going for us that Charlotte does -- like the president won North Carolina" in the 2008 presidential election, Montee said. Obama lost Missouri to Republican John McCain by 3,903 votes out of more than 2.9 million votes cast.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was out of town, stranded by a severe winter storm. His chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, likened the news to getting nominated for an Academy Award -- but not winning.
"You're disappointed you didn't win but you're really honored you got nominated," Rainford said.
The decision is more than a blow to the city's ego. The 2008 Democratic convention in Denver generated $266 million in regional economic benefit and attracted 50,000 people to Denver.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she was "bitterly disappointed" by the decision, but "incredibly proud of the bid put forth by St. Louis and how bipartisan the support was."
Democratic St. Louis congressman Russ Carnahan believes that while the South is important to how the Democrats do in 2012, so is the Midwest.
"Obviously, I think this was a huge missed opportunity for the DNC to hold the convention in a swing state that's in the heartland of swing states," Carnahan said.
"I hope that when we get past the disappointment, St. Louis recognizes what we accomplished. We proved that when we work together and really focus our collective talent and energy, we can compete with anyone, anywhere," Carnahan said.
Rainford agreed and noted that just a few years ago, St. Louis wouldn't have even made the short list. The city has worked hard in recent years to revitalize downtown, improve technology and bring together hotels and restaurants.
The effort has paid off in many respects. St. Louis has hosted several major events in recent years, including the 2009 baseball All-Star game, the 2005 men's basketball Final Four, and a 1999 visit by Pope John Paul II that drew more than 100,000 visitors.
The city also has been the site of significant political events. In September, more than 10,000 tea party supporters gathered on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. Two years earlier, Obama had one of his largest rallies on the Arch grounds just weeks before the election.
And Rainford said St. Louis isn't giving up on a presidential convention.
"We'll try again in 2016," he said.
AP reporter David Lieb in Jefferson City, Mo., provided information for this report.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)