Penn student reports from the RNC

St. Paul, Mn. - September 3, 2008 - Today the Republicans seemed to find the energy they had been missing. I found myself energized from class onward this morning. At our class meeting, our professors brought in two very different speakers. The first, Tom Davis, a Republican congressman from Virginia, addressed our class and answered all of our questions. While his political analysis was astute and engaging, it was both his current and past knowledge of every one of our congressional districts (and what I am assuming transcends to the entire country.) One of our professors, whom we all consider to be one of the smartest people on the planet in matters of politics, described Representative Davis (his college roommate) as a genius. Being in the presence of someone who has dedicated their life to and truly eats, sleeps and breathes politics is inspiring. I believe everyone in our class, regardless of political orientation, found the meeting fascinating and valuable and we all want to go home to our friends and make bets on Congressional races now that we have had such an insider's point of view!

After Mr. Davis, our other professor introduced a guest who has led a very colorful career. She moved from the public to the private sector and from the United States to various other countries around the world before settling in the United Kingdom. In the UK, she is at the top of the organization Republicans Abroad. This meeting once again broadened the scope of the convention for all of us. It is easy to get caught up in the headliners of the convention and forget how many conservatives from around the world are in St. Paul; and more broadly, the strength and depth of the conservative party (the same was true in Denver for liberals.) As a society, the conventions have been turned into a media frenzy (with CNN even setting up a stage on the convention floor.) It is easy to lose the true spirit and meaning of the conventions.

In between these meetings and the convention I had the opportunity to return to my hotel and rest. This was a key element absent in Denver—a break in the day. Unless you are a candidate, it is incredibly difficult to be on the go all day. Resting for a few hours allowed me to remain energized throughout the rest of the evening. When I was ready to return to downtown St. Paul to the Xcel Center, I once again witnessed the difference between the Democratic and Republican Conventions. Our hotel, of the same caliber Marriott brand where we stayed last week (and about the same distance from the Convention Hall) had a shuttle commissioned to transport guests between the convention and the hotel. Our shuttle, which transported four people (the driver, a classmate and me, and the security official required to be on all buses) was large enough to house a college football team (in fact that is where our driver is headed after he is finished tomorrow night!) It seemed rather excessive, but the point is that the RNC is much more user friendly and well-prepared for a large crowd (even if it is not as large as the DNC)

This continued to when we entered the RNC. There was absolutely no line (and this was at high time for entrance into the hall) and we were in the hall in literally two minutes. Not to mention, the security guards who checked my bag were exceedingly friendly. I probably lost time on my way in trying to politely finish our conversation!

Once in the hall, my energy level began to wane. Given that the speeches everyone was waiting for (namely Governor Palin) were still three hours away, the RNC had a lot of time to kill. Unlike the DNC who used this time to allow Congressional Representatives to address the hall, the RNC had stories from different kinds of Americans—Hispanic, African American, young, old, CEO, etc… The thread that wove all of these speeches together was the focus on small business success. The "prosperity" signs that adorned all of the major wall space reinforced this theme.

Unlike the DNC, the Republicans made the addresses from all of the primary candidates (except Ron Paul who is having a separate convention in St. Paul) a major focus of the evening. Governors Romney and Huckabee and Mayor Giuliani came out in succession and took on the role of attack dog. As the attacks grew progressively harsher, the unsolicited "USA" chants grew progressively louder.

This all set the stage for the night's main event. I can only imagine how nervous Governor Palin must have felt knowing that the eyes of the world were truly on her. While I will let you make your own judgments as to her performance, here are some things that those of you watching on television might not have seen. When Governor Palin unleashed her attacks on the media the audience started pointing to the various media outlets and chanting, "ABC, NBC…" On stage right, about twenty minutes into the address, two protesters dressed in what appeared to be mock beauty queen outfits, were violently escorted off of the floor. Look to other media outlets to have more details, as there was a barrage of cameras documenting the event. Finally, when Governor Palin's family was taken from their seats (which surrounded Cindy McCain) to prepare for their on stage appearance, Cindy McCain was left alone in her row. Some staffers quickly realized this and filled in around her until the other VIPs shifted around!

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's visit to the PA Delegation (and hopefully a great speaker like at the DNC) as well as watching how a more scaled back acceptance speech plays out!

Read Jen's blog from Tuesday

Read Jen's blog from Monday

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