A Delegate's-Eye-View of the RNC ConventionBy Sally Zelikovsky
Up until the 2012 GOP Convention, I was concerned about the ability of Romney-Ryan to win -- not because of their candidacy, but because of the dirty game their opponents were certain to play and the skyrocketing ignorance and apathy of the voters.
The Democrat machine is a powerful four-headed hydra, with one head being the party, another being the media, another being academia, and the fourth being pop culture. Even though we have a great Comeback Team and a targeted message, and the facts are on our side, how could we possibly prevail when increasing numbers within the electorate are not paying attention to politics, are dangerously unfamiliar with the issues, and are more concerned about Dancing with the Stars than with the real world around them?
But after being on the floor at the convention, there is no trace of any skepticism left with this Nancy Naysayer, and the good news is, I'm not the only one. No matter how odious the Obama team, no matter how ignorant the electorate, we can do this, and by the end of the second night, everyone knew it. Barring the unpredictable, the White House is ours to have.
But I'm not sure that this euphoria and enthusiasm came across in the press coverage. In fact, at one point during the convention, a friend sent me an e-mail along the lines of "What's happening on the floor? No one seems excited!"
That wasn't the case at all.
Conventions are to rev up the base and, at the same time, target the swing vote. There were thousands of boots on the ground from all over the country with diverse backgrounds and differing skills, who essentially hold the life and death of the campaign in their hands. The GOTV effort is driven by grassroots and party activists who will determine whether the Comeback Team thrives or nosedives.
And yet, from the coverage I saw on Fox and CNN, crickets. They seemed to focus not on the reaction of the base, but rather on the reaction of the pundits.
I have no quarrel with the pundits speculating about the swing viewer-voter, but why prod them to speculate about the base when the base is right there to ask? We watched Griff Jenkins at the post-convention Journey concert -- a perfect opportunity to interview euphoric delegates, but all we got was Griff playing air guitar.
Local papers and broadcasts actually did a better job of this than the big networks. They were more interested in the sights and sounds of the convention and the impressions of delegates. Maybe it's because the local media doesn't have the same access to the punditry as the big networks, and maybe that's a good thing.
The CA delegation had great seats in front of the VIP box and the press staging area. Martha Macallum, Chris Wallace, James Rosen, Carl Cameron, and CNN's Acosta were a ubiquitous presence on the floor, but they did not seem to be interviewing delegates -- at least not on our side of the floor.
Do viewers have any idea what delegates thought of Jeb Bush's opening remarks? Isn't that more interesting than what the pundits think or a clinical analysis from a journalist? People were thrilled. He said what no one was willing to say during the entire 2008 campaign and its aftermath when GWB took center stage -- not as America's 43rd president, but as everyone's favorite whipping boy. Finally, someone had the cojones to look into the camera and call Obama on it.
GWB has been hung like a heavy weight around our collective Republican necks for far too long, and we cheered for Jeb like fans at a close USC-UCLA football game as we felt that great weight lifted from our shoulders. In that short introduction, he gave us permission to defend GWB and put an end to the Blame Game.
By the end of Wednesday night, after Ryan's speech, the CA delegation headed back to our digs for some chow, libations, and music. There was an energy there -- an unspoken recognition that we can do this. OMG, we are going to do this!
Throughout the convention, I tried to teleport myself back to my days as a Democrat and then as an indie. How would the speeches resonate with me? I stopped being a Democrat in spirit at some point during the Clinton years in reaction to many of the same traits we see today with Obama -- an overexposed president in cahoots with the press, who responds to every criticism, attacks and blames the Republicans for everything that goes wrong, outright lies to us, plays us for fools, made this country more vulnerable, and doesn't take responsibility for his shortcomings.
For disgruntled Democrats and discerning indies, this convention offers a different, more professionally managed promise. They would see in Romney the skills, expertise, and temperament to be this country's chief executive. An honorable family man. A disciplined thinker and doer. Someone with a history of accomplishment.
As an indie, I didn't see a convention of extremists. The candidates were humanized. They clarified what they bring to the table and what needs to be done. This is an upbeat, optimistic campaign filled with love -- love of country, love for each other, love for our children and grandchildren, love for the promise of America. Ann Romney wanted to talk about love, and she did. But her theme of LOVE subtly permeated the entire convention.
Yes, love -- from former Democrat Artur Davis, who sees the future of America in the Republican Party and broke away from the Democrats, placing his love of country before his career, to Jeb Bush's love for his brother and the children of America who deserve equality in their education, to Condi Rice, who could, like so many others, hate this country because of the Jim Crow laws she lived under as a child, but never lost sight of the fact she could one day be president. Instead, she expressed great love for the promise of this country in spite of its past. And on to Marco Rubio, who is the future of this country and will go on to greatness, yet spoke humbly of his love for his father, who so believed in the promise of America that he willfully stood behind a bar in the back of a room so his son could one day stand behind a lectern in the front of a room.
Analyze these speeches clinically. Sanitize them all you want. But during those moments, we were proud of America, and tingles went down our spines not because of a man, but because of our love for the American ideal and its promise to millions.
And finally, to Mitt and Ryan, neither of whom needs to be in this race. I don't think Ryan's wife knew what hit her. Their life was pretty comfortable as it was, but it will never be the same. Ryan put his love for this country above the comfort of his family because he knows he can make a difference. And there are a hundred other things Romney could do with his time and money at this point in his life. He didn't need to put his entire career, family, and reputation on the line by running for president against the nastiest campaign out there. He's doing it because it's his calling. Because he knows he has the ability to fix this country and tap into the great resources of the America people to restore its greatness. He is running out of love -- for his county and the future of his children.
There was so much joy and love at this convention, you'd have thought we were at Haight-Ashbury or Woodstock.
Watching CNN in the airport for longer than I care to recall, they repeated ad nauseam the question of whether Clint Eastwood went too far with his presentation. Again, no delegates were interviewed for this segment. Only pundits.
Delegates weren't just placeholders. We were pretty tough on the speakers -- trust me. When the highly respected Pam Bondi looked like a deer caught in the headlights who couldn't deliver a line from the teleprompter, that's when folks caught up on their e-mail.
Santorum's speech was way too long -- a retread of his campaign speeches -- and did nothing to rev us up, but rather put us to sleep. In a word, it wasn't gracious. It wasn't about Romney or Ryan. It was time for another e-mail check.
CNN was so obsessed with making hay out of Clint's improv that the talkers there completely missed the fact that once we figured out that Invisible Obama was on a stool with a teleprompter prop, Clint brought the house down. No one thought it went too far. A little levity with innuendo was a welcome relief. And talk about risking one's reputation in Hollywood for love of country. Clint fit right in.
The cheers also seemed to be tamped down on the major networks, but we were whooping it up so loudly that we couldn't even hear the last few sentences of Romney's speech. If there is a word that means more than euphoria, then that is the one I'm looking for. If I had to provide a visual image of what we felt like, it would be that black-and-white footage of the fans going crazy when the Beatles arrived in the States. Arms reaching out to them, clapping, crying, cheering.
I asked veterans of the convention world what they thought of this convention on a scale of 1-10, with "Reagan 1984" being a 10. I was quickly corrected. "Reagan 1984" was a 10.5. This was a 9.5.
It was great to know that we virgin delegates weren't off. It was a great convention -- well done, well attended, and got the results out of the boots on the ground that are needed to replace the residents of 1600 Penn Ave. And, if the way this convention was run is any reflection of what Romney will do in the White House, then America is in good hands.
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