Republican National Convention 2012

August 26, 2012 by  

Republican National Convention 2012, Let the infomercial begin. Tampa, Fla., hosts the 40th Republican Party National Convention this week, an opportunity to cast the ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the best possible light while showcasing such GOP luminaries as keynote speaker New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Republican officials abruptly announced plans Saturday evening to scrap the first day of their national convention, bowing to a threat posed by Tropical Storm Isaac, churning toward Florida.

“Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area,” party chairman Reince Priebus said in an emailed announcement that followed private conversations involving presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign, security officials and others.

Priebus added that forecasters have predicted that convention-goers “may encounter severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain” on Monday, the day the convention had been scheduled to open.

The announcement said that while the convention would officially be gaveled into session on Monday as scheduled, the day’s events would be cancelled until Tuesday.

That meant Romney’s formal nomination would be postponed by a day, from Monday to Tuesday, but the balance of the four days of political pageantry and speechmaking would go on as scheduled.

But the otherwise heavily scripted event will be “a lot less riveting than ‘America’s Got Talent,'” writes University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato, who has attended every quadrennial party confab since 1976.

“Obviously they chose Chris Christie because Chris Christie is a good speaker. I’m sure he’ll say some provocative things. That’s why he’s there,” Sabato said in an interview. “But I’ve seen enough of (Virginia Gov.) Bob McDonnell.”

In the past, vice presidential candidates were selected during the conventions, lending a modicum of suspense.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford had to fight Ronald Reagan right onto the convention floor to remain his party’s standard-bearer, producing the kind of unwelcome drama that hurt him that fall.

Good government groups such as Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation also will be policing parties hosted by lobbyists to see that new rules governing members of Congress are adhered to – or not – and may make headlines the party faithful regret.

Now that all-important decisions have already been made before the first fall of the gavel, the conventions have become opportunities to schmooze, seek business and live it up. Conventions that cost about $2 million each in 1976, almost exclusively paid for with public funds, have ballooned in 2012 to gabfests costing an estimated $55 million in Tampa and $37 million for the Democrats next week in Charlotte, N.C.

Of that, taxpayers will kick in $18.3 million each to the host parties.

A lot of the politicking won’t happen on the convention floor.

Sens. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Bob Corker, of Tennessee, are holding fundraisers during or immediately before the convention. Sens. Thad Cochran, of Mississippi, and Jerry Moran, of Kansas, and Senate candidate Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, are hosting serial receptions of a half-hour each aboard the Starship II, a yacht moored two blocks from the convention center, on Monday’s opening night.

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, of Texas, is chartering a fishing boat for a fundraiser that morning. Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, has a $1,000 per plate luncheon scheduled for Wednesday.

The Republicans will have 2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories. They will be outnumbered by the 15,000 credentialed news media representatives. The GOP will have 7,500 volunteers to make things go smoothly, and security will be redundantly redundant.

For delegates, there’s an opportunity to party morning, noon and night at events with corporate sponsors. Those without special responsibilities to vet the party platform or set rules for the primary contests in 2016 can check out the rum and passion fruit cocktail known around Tampa Bay as a Hurricane, attend the nightly speeches or network with delegates from other states.

Delegate Denise Nielsen, of Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., who will be attending her first convention, sees the November election as a referendum on whether Americans want “a country of free things or a free country – you can’t have both.”

The gathering also will end on a personal high note. Nielsen will celebrate her 52nd birthday on the convention’s last day, when Romney will deliver his acceptance speech.

“I’m just thinking all of those balloons dropping is going to be the biggest birthday party I’ve ever had,” she said.

Delegate Arnold Weiner, of Memphis, was a Bob Dole delegate to the San Diego convention in 1996 and remains active in his local Republican Party. “I’ll probably be just enjoying myself and partying,” he said of his plans for this week.

Hamlin delegate Isaac Castro, a lawyer, takes his responsibilities seriously. “There’s no nominee until we vote at the convention,” he said.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing about the major television networks devoting less time than ever to convention coverage – and NBC likely skipping Day Two in Charlotte, pre-empting former President Bill Clinton to air a football game – but some suggest the lament is misguided. Many news organizations will be covering the events gavel to gavel, as in the old days, including some live streaming with good-as-television production values.

Tampa, known as “The Big Guava,” is the hometown of wrestler Hulk Hogan, supermodel Lauren Hutton, the late Mafia boss Santo Trafficante, baseball manager Tony LaRussa and songwriter Stephen Stills. It has now entered history launching this year’s Republican ticket.

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