TAMPA—The people who put together the Republican National Convention here this week tried a new thing this year, letting delegates and alternates and their friends mingle, snack, and yes, drink, with the press corps at what was for Republicans, a pretty good party at the domed baseball stadium west of the city.
Now, this is the Republican National Convention, and its job is to forget everything that happened before about mid-June (like the early Kansas Republican caucus where Rick Santorum ran away with the Kansas delegation 33-7 last spring before releasing his delegates to support Romney sometime this week).
In the past 20 years, political parties have segregated delegates and alternates from the press. They partied separately before the convention back in the days when if you heard something newsworthy, or at least worth a headline for a newspaper or television station that is paying for the convention coverage, you had to find a typewriter or at least a telephone to call it in.
Now, with the ability to just hold a cellphone in the air and push a couple buttons, you can get news, or whatever a person who can afford a smartphone believes is either news or just a “got-cha,” that mixing of press and delegates is a fairly bold deal. Democrats aren’t doing it this year at their convention in Charlotte N.C. next week.
This is the week when any use of the word “legitimate” perks the ears of reporters, and when any mention of skinny-dipping sends hands into pockets searching for that cellphone or for us older reporters trying to remember where we put the pen and pad just in case news occurs.
So what happened Sunday night at the Republican National Convention party? Apparently, nothing dramatic. The Kansas delegates and alternates and their friends generally had a few drinks and talked to each other and delegates from other states, but there didn’t appear to be a “gotcha” that rippled through the Internet on Facebook or Twitter that showed up round the world.
That’s almost a surprise, and while party officials toss around those nonsense phrases including the words “transparency” and “openness” they actually took a pretty sizable risk for the few thousand dollars they saved by putting all their guests in one baseball field and saving on dual deliveries of ice.
Now the talk at the mixer was pretty predictable. You could see the hard-right delegates who are willing to settle for Mitt Romney as long as Paul Ryan is on the ticket, and the delegates who would have been happy for someone more moderate, and those who were so stuck on a campaign tag line that they really seemed not to care who repeated the tag line.
Kansans so far are pretty well behaved here as of Monday morning. Some are obviously more conservative than others, but they’re not fighting about it in public and most seem willing to can the ruin Medicare/overspend the budget lines until they vote for their nominee for president and get back home and start campaigning among real voters.
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report, the nonpartisan news service focusing on Kansas government and politics; for more information, visit www.hawvernews.com.