I attended my first Republican Convention in Tampa last week as part of the California delegation and I’d like to share my thoughts on the event.
The positives for the event:
- First, the event was a bit like Disneyland for Conservative Republicans such as myself. I saw many of our older Republican leaders like former Senator Phil Gramm from Texas and current Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah. There were also sightings of the major convention players such as Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and the like as well as the players from the last convention such as Senator John McCain and Mike Huckabee. In addition, all of the Republican “Rock Star” news people — Sean Hannity and the Fox News Crew as well as Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager among others — were there and were very receptive to pictures.
- It was great to see a wide variety of Republican elected officials and activists from every race and ethnic group. One of the most unfortunate things, however, was that the networks did not show all the speakers, instead focusing on certain ones, thus giving the impression that the party was a “white men only” event which it was surely not.
- I enjoyed getting to know many of the other delegates, alternates and guests as part of our state’s delegation and to see what respect they have for Tony Krvaric and the rest of the San Diego Republican Party and organization. Many members of other county committees praised the SD County efforts for its organization, fundraising ability and candidate selection processes.
- It was obvious that the state-wide party is in need of major reform and a number of people were looking to San Diego to lead the way there. There was a feeling in the large 400-or-so person California delegation that the statewide delegation should play a more important role in the Convention, at the national level and within the party, but that we were held back by our lack of any major statewide governmental leaders.
- Ann Romney’s speech presenting her life and that with Mitt was wonderful and reminded us that the Romneys have had similar issues faced by many couples. As well, that Mitt was not the type of person to talk about himself, but that he liked his accomplishments to speak for themselves. In addition, the presentation of a few persons who have been helped by Romney in the past really gave us a better sense as to who he is and as to his ideals.
- Mitt Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s speeches also gave the listener the sense that these two leaders definitely have the values and the plans necessary to be important leaders for the Party and the nation. They seem to complement each other well in that Romney is very executive-like and a task-master, while Ryan is more the legislator with Conservative fire in his belly.
- Lastly, there seemed to be an alliance forming amongst the major religious groups at the Convention: the Latter-Day-Saints (“LDS”), the evangelicals, the Catholics and Jewish-Americans. There were a number of separate organizational events in which the LDS members and the evangelicals were trying to come to an alliance and to bridge some of their differences. The sense I got was that the LDS members and evangelicals agreed to disagree on theology and to instead agreed on politics, in that if President Obama would win reelection, all religious groups in the nation would be worse off.
The negatives for me:
- Tampa was really hot, the people were nice, but the organization of the event was a bit chaotic. Buses were often late, sometimes very late, security seemed a bit over the top and the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service must be the rudest and most obnoxious people I have ever met. Also, we really need to think again about having a convention in a state during its hurricane season.
- There was no or little mention of the Tea Party. I felt that Paul Ryan’s selection was a very good choice for the Tea Party, but in my opinion there should have been more mention of this group as being the prime driver of our national Conservative and Constitutionalist movement.
- There are four distinct groups at these Conventions: (1) the Presidential candidate’s people including major donors, (2) grass-roots activists, (3) state and congressional elected members and their staffs and (4) political consultants and other service providers. The first group was definitely in charge and in fact at this year’s convention, there was a backlash by grass-roots activists who felt that some of the Convention’s rules were being altered to support the first group unfairly. A number of state committee’s fought back as did the California delegation.
- Lastly, the Clint Eastwood speech was a bit weird. In my unofficial poll, it seems women on average liked his speech because they like him, but the men just did not get it.
Overall, however, the event was a huge success and energized me to fight until we have Romney and Ryan in the White House.
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Randy Berholtz is a San Diego County Republican Party Central Committee member and on the board of the national Republican Lawyers Association. He is also with Lawyers for Romney