Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Convention officially opens as delegates stay away

TAMPA

Republican Nat­ional Committee chairman Reince Priebus rapped a gavel six times at 2 p.m. Monday and formally opened the 2012 Republican National Convention to a largely empty Tampa Bay Times Forum — a muted start caused by Tropical Storm Isaac.

Seventy seconds later, Priebus banged the gavel three more times, ending Day 1.

The Republican National Committee originally planned a double session Monday but changed its plans due to Isaac, which lingered in the Gulf of Mexico west of Tampa. Many state delegations stayed in their convention hotels Monday and skipped the quick opening session.

The convention will get rolling at 2 p.m. today with the roll call of states, followed in the evening by speeches by seven Republican governors, including the keynoter, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Christie and Ann Romney will deliver prime-time speeches in the 10 o'clock hour, when all three broadcast networks will be providing live coverage.

Beautiful weather? Yeah, right

Thousands of media representatives from all over the world are covering the RNC in Tampa. Some arrived at the Tampa Convention Center — the filing center for reporters — soaked to the skin from the remnants of Isaac. Inside, they were handed an Official Media Guide, which says on Page 5: "Tampa Bay boasts some of the nicest weather in the country."

Best seats in the house

The choicest seating spot in the Tampa Bay Times Forum belongs to the 79-member delegation from Massachusetts, the state Mitt Romney governed from 2003-2007. Three prime front-row seats belong to senior Romney adviser Ron Kaufman; Kerry Healey, Romney's lieutenant governor; and delegation chairman Bob MaGinn. Seated right behind Massachusetts is the 50-member Florida delegation.

An icon remembered

Many Tampa delegates hadn't even been born in 1964 when Republicans nominated Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who famously said in his acceptance speech: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." President Lyndon Johnson swamped Goldwater in the LBJ landslide, but Goldwater, who died in 1998, remains an iconic party figure. Delegates and alternates, including a Ron Paul supporter, Jay Vics of Wilmington, N.C., were circulating little white buttons featuring Goldwater's name written using the periodic table of the elements: "AuH2O '64." (At the 1964 convention, Romney's father, George Romney, challenged Goldwater's hard-line positions on civil rights.)

A short commute

The Florida delegation in Tampa has two hourlong bus rides each day, to and from the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. But you won't find alternate delegate Tony Jackson on that bus: He's commuting from his home in nearby Seffner. "I've got a 20-minute drive," Jackson said.

Very brief beginning

Chairman Reince Priebus, after officially adjourning the convention for the day, pointed to two national debt clocks in the upper reaches of Tampa Bay Times Forum that will show a running tally of national debt growth for the next three days. So few delegates were around that organizers rounded up party staffers to fill seats in the hall.

They got a quick pep talk from Tony Feather, a veteran GOP strategist in charge of whip operations in Tampa. He told them to loudly chant "USA! USA!" if spontaneous demonstrations erupted on the floor. But it didn't happen, and if you blinked, you probably missed it.

A very brief beginning

Priebus, after officially adjourning the convention for the day, pointed to two national debt clocks in the upper reaches of the Tampa Bay Times Forum that will show a running tally of national debt growth for the next three days. So few delegates were around that organizers rounded up party staffers to fill seats in the hall.

They got a quick pep talk from Tony Feather, a veteran GOP strategist in charge of whip operations in Tampa. He told them to loudly chant "USA! USA!" if spontaneous demonstrations erupted on the floor. But it didn't happen, and if you blinked, you probably missed it.

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