Tampa, FL (WBEN) A pair of Tampa radio hosts are gearing up for the Republican National Convention in their city. The mood is mixed with excitement and worry.
Exclusive WBEN Audio
On The WBEN Liveline:
Nick Langworthy, Erie GOP Chair:
CBS's Peter King in Tampa
From Hardline, the WBEN Politics Program
(Sunday 10am- 12 noon)
Nick Langworthy, Erie GOP Chair
Elizabeth Flock, US News.com
Prof. Bruce Bryski, Buffalo State College
Jim Ostrowski, WNY Ron Paul campaign
"We've gone from excited, to fearful, and now relief, all due to Isaac," says Scott Finn, news director at WUSF. "We might get wet with rain, but we're used to it and it's on with the show."
Finn says the controversy over Todd Akin will cast a shadow on the convention. "There were a couple of proposed amendments dealing with abortion that were rejected, and that has become a concern about it, and it is indeed stealing the energy from what the campaign wants to talk about,' notes Finn.
Todd Schnitt, whose syndicated radio show is based out of WFLA in Tampa, says the economy is what Mitt Romney wants to talk about.
"The country is in an economically bad position. That should be the bulk and the thrust of what Romney and (Paul) Ryan want to talk about," says Schnitt. "They've been doing that on the road as they meet crowds. It's really about the economy and that's what this country cares about."
Schnitt says the excitement is in the air is mixed with anticipation of protesters.
"Whether it's the anarchists, the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the Black Block, which also caused problems at the NATO meeting in Chicago," says Schnitt, who calls the Black Block a rag tag group that can be "dastardly" in calling for violence and destruction.
He says while the designated protest zones downtown will be used by "run of the mill" peaceful protesters, the concern will be away from downtown Tampa.
"We're concerned they're going to cause problems in some of the outlying areas where there's not much police presence," notes Schnitt.
Finn adds police have learned much from the 2008 convention in St. Paul, MN and are hoping to avoid a repeat. "They are going to be proactive and try to stop damage but they're going to try and avoid mass arrests," says Finn.
Not only will Erie County's delegation to the convention have an insider's view of the nomination, but they have a front row seat for any severe weather brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.
The contingent is housed with the rest of those from New York State, about 25 miles outside of Tampa, in Clearwater Beach. The Hilton Hotel there is approx. a mile and a half off the mainland.
"Obviously, if you are going to Florida in the month of August or September, hurricanes are a reality," says Erie County Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy, adding that he doesn't anticipate any real disruption of the proceedings.
The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac left delegates to the Republican National Convention recalibrating Sunday but insistent that the show will go on with just a few modifications due to the weather. The GOP postponed most of Monday's lineup, cramming four days of events into three with hopes for a major send-off for Mitt Romney on Thursday.
In addition to Langworthy, .The Erie County Delegation also includes Sheriff Tim Howard, Attorney Emilio Coliacovo, Grand Island GOP Chair Deborah Michaux, Tonawanda Town chair Mark Tramont and Tonawanda City Chair Christine Pillozzi.
SEE ALSO: The WBEN Storm Tracker
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, spent Sunday evening at a local high school auditorium rehearsing their speeches to the Convention.
At least one arrest has been made during protests near the convention hall.
The beachfront hotels that a few lucky delegations scored are all of a sudden a point of concern as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens to wreak havoc on Florida.
Mitt Romney loyalists, seeking a show of strength and solidarity, struggled Friday to placate restless Ron Paul supporters while also weakening the powers of such insurgent candidates in future Republican primaries.
Republican loyalists to Mitt Romney are trying to make it harder for insurgent presidential candidates such as Ron Paul to have a big voice in future nominating conventions.
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is releasing the delegates he won during the GOP primary race to Mitt Romney
Are the Conventions Still Relevant?
"Obviously this is a pre-determined coonvention vote, these aren't brokered conventions as they were 50 or more years ago, but they are a celebration of the Republican Party. This is a showcase for the country and the world to actually see what the platform of our party is and it is the official roll out of our presidential nominee and our vice presidential nominee . "
- Nick Langworthy, Erie County Republican Party Chair
Convention Schedule Day-By-Day
- 2 p.m. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Color Guard Knights of Columbus, Pledge of Allegiance by former Govs. Tim Babcock of Montana, and Tom Hogan of Florida. National Anthem sung by Philip Alongi, Invocation by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. Opening procedural steps, appointment of convention committees. Welcoming remarks, and House and Senate candidates and RNC auxiliaries. Speakers: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. RNC Co-Chairman Sharon Day. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, D-Fla. William Harris, convention chief executive officer. Al Austin, chairman of Tampa Bay host committee. Republican congressional candidates: State Del. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., Republican Senate candidates: Republican National Committee auxiliaries.
Consideration of convention committee reports: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Mike Duncan, chairman, Committee on Credentials, Zoraida Fonalledas, chairwoman, Committee on Permanent Organization, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, convention permanent chairman
Official Convention Photograph
Committee on Rules Chairman John Sununu. Committee on Resolutions Chairman Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., Committee on Resolutions Co-Chairman Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Committee on Resolutions Co-Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.,
Roll call for nomination of vice president of the United States
6:40 p.m.: Recess
- 7 p.m.: Reconvene:
- 8 p.m.: Remarks by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., accompanied by Jack Gilchrist, Remarks by Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, Remarks by Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., Remarks by Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., accompanied by Bev Gray, Remarks by Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.
- 9 p.m.: Remarks by Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., Remarks by Sher Valenzuela, Remarks by Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, Remarks by Artur Davis, Remarks by Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C.
- 10 p.m. Remarks by Luce' Vela Fortuño, Remarks by Ann Romney, KEYNOTE REMARKS by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie .
- 7 p.m. Call to order, Introduction of Colors by Amputee Veterans of America Support Team, Pledge of Allegiance by Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Rea, U.S. Army (Ret.), National Anthem sung by Ayla Brown, Invocation by Ishwar Singh.
Ron Paul video
Remarks by Senate Republican leader and Convention Temporary Chairman Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Remarks by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Remarks by Christopher Devlin-Young and Jeanine McDonnell
- 8 p.m.: Remarks by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Remarks by Attorney General Pam Bondi, R-Fla., Attorney General Sam Olens, R-Ga., Remarks by Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., Remarks by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Remarks by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
- 9 p.m.: Remarks by Gov. Luis Fortuño, R-Puerto Rico, Remarks by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn.
Bush 41, 43 film, Remarks by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.
- 10 p.m.: Remarks by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Remarks by Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M., Remarks by vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Benediction by Archbishop Demetrios
- 7 p.m.: Call to order , Introduction of Colors US Central Command Joint Forces Color Guard Team, Pledge of Allegiance by Dylan Nonaka, National Anthem sung by SEVEN, Invocation by Ken and Priscilla Hutchins, Remarks by Republican Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla.
Reagan Legacy Video
Remarks by former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich. Remarks by Craig Romney
- 8 p.m.: Remarks by former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla.,Remarks by Bob White, chairman of Romney for President campaign,Remarks by Grant Bennett, Remarks by Tom Stemberg
- 9 p.m.: Remarks by former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, R-Mass. Remarks by Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts secretary of workforce, Remarks by Olympians Michael Eruzione, Derek Parra and Kim Rhode,
Benediction by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declares convention end
The conventional wisdom about national political conventions is that they have outlived their purpose.
Once, they were the place where the parties actually picked their candidates for president and vice president. But for at least 30 years now, conventions have been the place where the nominees, long since selected, try to bind up their party's internal wounds and reach out over the heads of the delegates to woo the less partisan voters who usually decide the election.
They have become the largest, most expensive infomercials in human experience.
So why are we even still having them?
As the parties convene, there will be much chattering that conventions don't matter anymore, that they are a waste of money (some of it taxpayer money) and should be abandoned. "Total anachronisms. Parties should scrap `em," sniffs Mark McKinnon, former media adviser to George W. Bush and a co-founder of No Labels, a group devoted to purging "hyper-partisanship" from politics.
The Senate, in fact, voted, 95 to 4 a few weeks ago to cut off in the future the $18.3 million subsidy each party gets to stage (that is the word - "stage") the conventions. Homeland Security also gives out $50-milllion to assure security at each convention.
The parties are not likely to give up their moments in the sun, however.
Conventions are the time when voters really tune in. Even with the reduced air time the TV networks now give them, conventions bring a spike in attention, says Andrew Kohut , president of the Pew Research Center. Social media is likely to magnify that this year in the same way that it whetted TV audiences' appetites for this summer's other big event, the London Olympics.
The acceptance speeches of the two presidential nominees will be the largest campaign audience either receives until they meet together for the three debates.
Those speeches are no small thing.
American politics is hardly burdened by too much communication, although if you live in a battleground state saturated with 30-second commercials you might be forgiven for thinking that. The larger problem is too little substantive communication, particularly communication that forces a thought to last longer than the speed of sound-bite.
The acceptance speeches are the only time in the entire fall campaign when each candidate speaks directly to the country for an extended time, unfiltered by news coverage or back and forth with an opponent.
Other countries arrange time specifically for that sort of thing. Not in America.
"It is the best chance for a candidate to `introduce himself' to the country on his own terms," says former Rep Mickey Edwards, a Republican from Oklahoma. That is particularly interesting coming from Edwards, who in almost every other respect excoriates the present political system in his new book, "The Parties Versus the People."
"I do, indeed, want to radically overhaul the system, but that's about the voting process, money, partisanship in governing," Edwards says. "The convention is not at that level; it's more of a `show', more important than mere `entertainment.' I see it as something worth watching, and even more so than most of the other stuff on television."
Indeed, it is the kind of high-school civics version of campaigning that is otherwise pretty hard to locate in the day-to-day scrum of American national politics these days.
If the candidates want to speak directly to the nation after their conventions, they have to pay for the time, as Obama did in 2008.
Of course, if the justification for public spending on party events is that the acceptance speech is a public service, the government could just spend that $18.3 million to buy air time for each campaign.
That $18.3 million is one of the last remnants of a public finance system that was meant to curb money in politics. The IRS collects $3 from every taxpayer who ticks the box for the presidential campaign fund. But most of the money, some $235 million, is sitting in the government coffers because neither Romney nor Obama is taking their share, preferring instead to go out and raise and spend even more on their own.
Since $18 million might not be enough, at going rates, to buy an hour across all the networks and key cable channels, Congress could authorize the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to tap the rest of that money, too, to buy time on the condition it was used for long-form presentations. There will be a great temptation to take this unspent money and plow it back into paying down the government debt. But it would probably increase the chances of actually dealing with that debt if the candidates used the money to explain the fiscal situation and what they planned to do about it.
The parties will have to make their own decision whether to continue the conventions without the federal subsidy. They might well, since the conventions are still a valuable tool for rewarding party workers and motivating the base voters of each party, something that could loom particularly large this year in an election that may revolve even more than usually on whose loyalists turn out in the fall (partisan voters do tend to watch their own convention more than the other guys').
Conventions weren't part of the original plan. The founders by and large hated parties (tellingly, they called them factions) and probably would have hated partisan conventions, which were invented only after they were gone.
Conventions were originally thought of as a reform of a system in which congressmen picked the candidates. The first party conventions were before the election of 1832, and nominated Henry Clay to challenge President Andrew Jackson. Delegates arrived at both those party conventions knowing who would get the nomination. Just like this year. But that hasn't stopped conventions from convening every four years since.
Even before the federal subsidy is yanked, the conventions are evolving. Once a fixture of midsummer, the Democratic convention this year will actually be after Labor Day, coinciding with the traditional kickoff of fall campaigning. The Democrats had already cut their convention to three days, recognizing a reality that broadcasters weren't going to pay attention to their activities on Labor Day anyway. The broadcasters then told the Republicans they wouldn't cover their Monday sessions either, and Hurricane Isaac has now finished the job of washing out day one.
"Despite separation between church and state, Mother Nature is helping to ensure that the conventions get trimmed from four days to three," said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of the Kantar/media analysis group. "With Dems really only doing three days, and now Republicans only doing three days, in 2016 there will be pressure to only do three days."
Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., saw this coming. He has served as parliamentarian of the last four GOP conventions. He recalls that in 2008 a Katrina-class hurricane was barreling for the Gulf Coast as the convention convened in Minnesota. His staff got together and figured out a way to compress all the legally required business of the convention - rules, the platform and the nomination of the ticket - into a few hours so delegates from the Gulf Coast, including the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, could rush home to respond to the looming disaster.
This Plan B went unneeded. The hurricane blew out, and the convention went ahead as planned over four days to nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin.
While Dreier developed a plan to effectively eliminate the Republican convention, that doesn't mean he would. "There will be a degree of uncertainty about what party conventions will look like in the future," he said as he headed to Tampa. "They are going through a bit of a change. But I don't agree they are unnecessary."