Convention Insider Notes
Two weeks ago I gave my version of a detailed prediction for Mitt Romney's running mate... my educated guess was incorrect. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will be the vice presidential nominee.
Quite frankly, I am pleased, happy and very satisfied with the selection; it was a great choice. Just two weeks from today I will see them standing on the podium in Tampa with thousands of balloons falling around them – and me!
Tampa 2012 will be the third Republican National Convention I will attend as a delegate from The Old Line State. Conventions are the Super Bowl and World Series of politics all rolled into five days of excitement. Attendees are like the cast of thousands in a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza.
My first experience was in 2004 in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Entering the high security area, I was in awe of the arena, morphed from a sports arena into a political stage. The entire place was abuzz with the electricity of delegates entering for session one. I had no clue what would happen, or what I was supposed to do as a delegate. I quickly learned and watched – the routine repeated again in 2008 in St. Paul, MN, except this time I was a convention veteran.
During the week prior to each convention all the committees meet, which is when all the actual "work" of the convention is accomplished. By the time the members not on committees arrive (which is 98% of the total) all that is left is to listen to and ratify the committee reports. Trust me the "listen to" part is boring, while the ratification is thousands of voices quickly saying "aye” – just to end the pain so they can move past the business session and into the entertainment.
By the second of the five sessions, speakers are taking the stage to pontificate. Those who take the podium at 7 P.M. are mostly the "farm team." By 8 P.M. you are starting the "B" list of speakers. Prime time at 9 P.M. brings on the "A" team with the featured speakers of the evening starting around 10 P.M., each one glowing about the nominee; most "interviewing" with the national audience for a potential job in a new administration,
The delegates on the floor also participate in this five-day infomercial. Prior to each speech the floor workers (Republican National Committee volunteers) pass out signs and we are cued as to when to hold up them up and when to cheer. We are told when to sit or stand. We make sure all chairs are filled for the cameras and continually take direction throughout the evening as to which sign to hold during which speech. No matter the minor role, all believe it is a huge privilege to be part of such history.
On the convention floor, the chairs are vinyl folding chairs which are connected together. Each seat is very tight. The leg room is such that those with long legs are rubbing the seats of the chair in front of them. Men sitting in a row together cannot sit square on the chair because there is no shoulder room. So, we sit angled and get up to stretch – a lot. The tightness of the chairs, however, is quickly forgotten or perhaps forgiven by the experience of sharing with each other in the convention atmosphere.
Most people don't realize conventions are not free to the attendee. The typical delegate or alternate delegate will spend about $3,000 for the privilege to see this once in a lifetime political show. Everything is expensive – hotels, food and drink. The desire to attend is a love/hate relationship. You hate the cost but the love of politics drives you past your dislikes.
Four years ago I served on the Credentials Committee. The duties there were to solve problems of who was attending as a delegate, making sure the correct amount of credentials were distributed, and to serve as a judicial board to resolve disputes within states about who should be voting or not. We had an easy task with few problems in 2008.
This convention I will serve on the 2012 Platform Committee – we start one week before the convention convenes. Our job is to draft the platform which will be used by the party for the next four years. We are scheduled to meet for 30-hours to hammer out the philosophy and guidelines for the GOP's near-term future. My sub-committee is Health, Education and Crime.
If you would like to express thoughts about the upcoming planks in the GOP platform you can email me or go directly to our committee's public input site: http://www.gopplatform2012.com/. If you would like to view the current GOP platform as a reference guide, you can find it here: http://gop.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2008platform.pdf
Two weeks in Tampa will be productive and exciting. I am looking forward to working on my committee; looking forward to seeing perhaps some of "my own words or thoughts" memorialized into the national GOP platform; and really looking forward to being under the balloon drop two weeks from today as the Romney/Ryan team officially become the GOP ticket.
Look for me on your TV!