ST. PETERSBURG — Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist said he has found it challenging to get around the Tampa Bay area this week because of all the blocked-off streets and long distances between hotels filled with Republicans who would like to hear him speak.
But the conservative activist, who has been attending GOP conventions since 1984, did manage to find his way on Wednesday to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
He delivered a speech laced with plenty of dry quips about the differences between the United States' two main political parties.
He said it basically boils down to this: You've got the Republican Party, and "they want one thing from the federal government: They wish to be left alone," he said.
On the other hand, you've got the Democratic Party, which consists largely of "competing parasites" who want money from the federal government, and sometimes have to fight each other to get it, he said.
Republicans used to be clustered in the Northern states and Democrats in the South, but over time the parties have become separated more by principle, he said.
"The modern Republican Party became the party of limited government, lower taxes, less regulation," he explained. "The modern Democratic Party became one with a more expansive view of the role of government in running people's lives and deciding whether you were allowed to drink large glasses of sugared soda, and other key issues."
Norquist, who also performed at a comedy club in Tampa this week, delivered that line in perfect deadpan style. Although discerning listeners might already have picked up on it, Norquist explained that he likes Republicans better.
Norquist is known for pushing his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," in which politicians promise not to raise taxes. Supporters say the pledge creates a clear dividing line between those who will protect taxpayers' money and those who won't. Critics say it's simplistic, and has made it politically impossible for Congress to solve federal deficits.
Before and after his speech, Norquist answered a reporter's questions about the layout of this convention. One problem, he said, is the hotels are scattered over wide distances. The Virginia delegation wanted him to speak at breakfast, but he couldn't because "they were 40 minutes out of the city," he said. He said there were similar issues at the Minnesota and Houston conventions.
Also, "the security was so rough that getting across town — by Thursday I'll figure out how to maneuver and where you can't walk because they've got fences." Asked if there was more security in Tampa than at other conventions, he said "more in-the-way security." But overall, he said it has been workable, just a bit inconvenient.