The Republican Convention -- Day 1
Tue September 2, 2008 2:30 pm

Sorry, I can’t tell you anything about the parties. I told Eileen she should go in my place. I did read in Politico’s “Shennanigans” blog that Tom DeLay was seen at a gathering that featured a band called “Smashmouth.” Whose mouth, I wonder. The same blog insensitively quoted a veteran convention goer as saying, “This convention can be summed up thusly: The entire Texas delegation dresses the same on purpose and plans to all week.” It’s true. When I walked into the Xcel Center and looked down on the roiling convention floor, I had no trouble spotting our delegation. They were decked out in denim work shirts with “Governor Perry” over one pocket and Perry’s campaign logo above it–a capital “R” topped by an arc, resembling a cattle brand. Other delegations had matching garb, notably Florida, whose loose-fitting beachwear-style shirts displayed the name of state highways (Alligator Alley, Sunshine Parkway, Florida’s Turnpike). But I didn’t see any other outfits that advertised the name of the state’s governor.

Texas’s Republican delegation is very different from the Democrats’. All statewide officeholders were delegates except for Jerry Patterson–Perry (who did not attend), both U.S. senators, Dewhurst (who was NOT clad in Perrywear), Abbott, Combs, Staples, and railroad commissioners Williams and Ames Jones. No members of Congress are delegates; Dan Patrick is the only state senator; and just a handful of House members (Craddick, Doc Anderson, Dan Flynn, Leo Berman, Jodie Laubenberg, and Wayne Christian, who stayed home due to the likelihood that Gustav would hammer his district). The Democrats sent many more officeholders. This is largely a grassroots bunch.

Even for those of us with media credentials, access to the floor is very limited. We can get one-hour passes. The demand was slight yesterday, but it will be very heavy for the rest of the convention. One of the first Texans I saw was Leo Berman. I asked him if he had heard any of the delegates express unhappiness that McCain had chosen Sarah Palin instead of Kay Bailey Hutchison. “Oh, no,” he said. “Kay is pro-choice. There isn’t a single person in this delegation who is pro-choice.” We also talked a little about immigration. “David Swinford [chairman of State Affairs] killed all the bills last time,” he said. “That isn’t going to happen this time. If it does, if we can’t get our immigration bills passed, there are going to be some more people in the governor’s race. I’m considering running for governor myself.”

Roger Williams, the former secretary of state who is in charge of the Republican victory effort in Texas, has had a tough year. The lack of enthusiasm of the Republican base for John McCain has hampered fundraising and volunteer efforts and has threatened to depress turnout. But Williams was in a euphoric mood on Monday. The reason is Sarah Palin. “All year long,” he said, “people have been mad. Now, having a woman on the ticket has turned the energy level way up. All we have to do is keep this energy level. This is going to help our judges, our legislative candidates. If we get our vote out, we win.”

As I listened to him, I wondered: Does Barack Obama regret not picking Hillary Clinton?

Of course, the returns aren’t in on Sarah Palin. Well, they are as far as members of the media are concerned. The delegates love her, but here at the hotel where I am staying, the media people, especially the women, are appalled. That was the conversation at breakfast yesterday morning. I’m appalled too–at McCain. He is supposed to be the candidate with sober judgment, but this is a wild gamble: not just that she can help him win the election, but that she is capable of running the country. I saw a news story today that quotes an unnamed Republican strategist describing the pick as “reckless.” Show me voting aye to that.

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