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  1. Opinion

For Florida Republicans, a humid Siberia

This is a bit like being invited to a fancy-schmancy soiree and then forcing the hosts to sit at the kiddie table with the addled uncle from the attic.

When the ascots of the Republican Party gather in Tampa this summer for their presidential nominating coronation, Florida's delegation will be relegated to the political desert equivalent of where Moses lost his sandals.

The New Orleans Saints locker room has more class.

Florida found itself on the RNC's blacklist because the state's Republicans decided to hold the presidential primary on Jan. 31 ahead of several other states with less influence than Rick Santorum at a Planned Parenthood convention.

Still, Florida did hold its primary after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which in electoral terms represent the axis of quaint on the primary calendar.

Florida's delegates mattered, especially to Mitt Romney, who easily won the state with 46 percent of the vote and used the Sunshine State as a springboard to secure the nomination. But Florida incurred the wrath of the RNC, which stripped the state of half of its convention delegates, sentenced the remaining delegates to the rafters of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and assigned them to inconvenient lodging accommodations.

The bowler hats of the RNC announced on Monday that Florida's delegates will be staying at the Innisbrook Resort in north Pinellas County. To be sure, Innisbrook isn't exactly the Bates Motel. But it is still some distance away from the epicenter of political life that will be Tampa for a few short days in August. It will take at least 45 minutes to get from Innisbrook to the Forum — assuming U.S. 19 doesn't revert to its usual form as the roadway capital of the international hand gesture for ... have a nice day.

Or put another way, exiled Florida delegates are likely to spend at least two hours daily traversing Tampa Bay. One can only hope the tour bus comes complete with a bar.

Does this make any sense? Florida is banished to Innisbrook, while the Wisconsin delegation gets the Hyatt Regency in Tampa, simply because the RNC chairman with a name that sounds like a James Bond villain, Reince Priebus, happens to be a fellow cheesehead?

It was Florida that gave Romney the much needed boost. It is Florida that has raised more than $7 million for the Romney campaign. And it is Florida that Romney must win to win the White House.

And yet the RNC has chosen to treat the delegation of the host state for its convention as if they are the Salahis crashing a White House state dinner? What were the harrumphs of the RNC thinking?

A political convention is more than the laying of hands upon the nominee. It is one big gooey Amway meets Mary Kay Cosmetics pep rally for the faithful to gin up enthusiasm for the fall campaign.

Merely because the Florida GOP pragmatically reasoned the state is more important than the early primary contenders, who would otherwise attract less media attention than Wilson Alvarez announcing a pitching comeback, the state's Republicans are shunned?

After spending several days getting familiar with the charms of Pinellas County traffic, only to arrive at the Forum and discover you've been seated in the pariah section, just how revved up do you suppose Florida delegates are going to be to leap into the campaign fray?

Now Florida Republican leaders are putting the pressure on Romney to put an end to their own party's shabby treatment of them. This is an awkward test for Romney, who now becomes the titular leader of the Republicans.

How hard can it be for Romney to call up the RNC chairman and say something like: "Hey, listen Rice, or Prince, or whatever your cockamamie name is, this is my coming-out party and you'll restore the Florida delegation to its full strength and give them whatever the heck they want. I need Florida more than I need Iowa come this November."

If Mitt Romney can't settle seating arrangements at his own convention, how will he handle that 3 a.m. phone call about the 12-year-old running North Korea shooting off missiles to impress Michael Jordan?