WL Insider: Republican Convention, Day One

by Editorial

A conventioneer muses on a problematic first day at the RNC.

By David H. Bass

Rick Santorum speaks on the first night of the GOP convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Photo by David H. Bass)

The 2012 GOP convention was destined to be problematic.

Well, Tampa was the chosen city, famous more for its strip joints than much else. Now this fact need not inherently be a trip destroyer. No, this destruction is far more likely to result from the far-flung satellite locales where many of us will be taking up residence for the week. In my case, a hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Republican National Committee assigned me a hotel room.

Sure, Google maps put the lovely old city at about 30 miles from the convention site, but most of us can translate this to a real travel time of 90 minutes plus. I am so willing to be proved wrong on this. This will in fact be my first convention where I am on a daily basis so utterly estranged from my domicile. Could be worse I suppose.

Wait, it is.

As most are aware, there’s a Category 5 hurricane heading our way. Monday’s official proceedings have already been delayed by the RNC until Tuesday afternoon. I suppose Isaac is an in-and-out kinda fellow.

Nice chap.

The Tampa Bay Times Forum will host tens of thousands of delegates, politicians and media over the three days of the GOP convention. (Photo by Apalapala)

And let’s face it, there’s quite a bit at risk here. Cancelled events. Severe weather. Will Big Head Todd and the Monsters play? Will Blues Traveler? These are the things that weigh heavily upon our minds. I suppose as long as Skynyrd (cancelled) makes the stage this evening, all else becomes secondary.

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If we happen to nominate a candidate along the way, all the better.

At 7 a.m. local time, I hit Memphis. Airport BBQ available. Unusual for me, I take a pass. Emails of flight changes and Sunday event cancellations are starting to trickle in. Watching CNN at the gate, reports of altered plans for the convention sound even more grim. As my Delta flight arrives in Tampa on time, and the weather grows more worrisome, I realize that getting in when I did was probably the best option. Tuesday is not looking so good.

The collective consternation over travel between St. Petersburg and Tampa is palpable. This will be an interesting experiment in geographic challenges. This being said, this conventioneer is going to opt for the challenge. An hour car ride yielding The Commodores at a place called The Cuban Club just might make it worthwhile.

Tuesday arrives and official proceedings begin. And, I have yet to make it to the actual convention center.

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The NRSC, Right Now, Magnum and National Journal events have occupied my schedule thus far. The concert events tend to feel the same. At least the National Journal and The Atlantic manage to keep the place classy.

David H. Bass is a principal with Washington, D.C.-based Raptor Strategies. He previously was deputy publisher of The Weekly Standard and The Hill newspaper, and was the launch consultant in the founding of Politico.

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