The first day of my first national convention actually began on Saturday, when Hurricane Isaac’s projected course cause a change in my flight plans and I joined tens of thousands of other concerned travelers on hold with the airline hoping to re-route – which ultimately I did. Traveling Philadelphia to Tampa through Dallas isn’t the most direct path, but it got me into this city on the bay in good time on Sunday.
It’s been several generations since a Fleming attended an event such as this. My great-grandmother, a businesswoman from the little town of Virginia, Minnesota, trekked across the country to Philadelphia to nominate Harry Truman at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. (Quick trivia question: who was HST’s VP?[i])
Conventions have changed a lot since then, they are obviously strictly a stage-managed affair, and we also now have central air conditioning. Probably a lot more guys in blue blazers and khaki pants roaming around as well (my people!).
On Monday morning, the Delaware delegation was greeted by Gov. Mitt Romney’s son, Josh, as well as former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (shown at left). Ari is an old friend and has deep ties to the First State, dating from his years as a weekend warrior in Dewey Beach (he joked about the good fortune in that it was a pre-smart phone/Facebook era). Despite his Dewey ties, I do not believe he is involved with the Alex Pires campaign.
Tuesday night was a big one for Delaware with our Lt. Gov. candidate and Small Business Person of the Year Sher Valenzuela having a star turn on the national stage and UD Blue Hen Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, delivering the keynote.
Sher showed real grace and poise under extraordinary circumstances. Her remarks focused on her family and business and the deep connection between the two, and she really connected with the audience. Her story is moving and memorable.
Then came Ann Romney, a beautiful, radiant woman, with a natural gift for speaking. Chris Christie was the clean-up hitter and he nailed it. Christie is a classic American original and the audience in the hall was energized and beyond enthusiastic about his rousing address.
This morning the Delaware delegation was joined by Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista. Newt and Callista spent several weeks tracing up and down Delaware during the primary earlier this year, and built some very strong relationships in all three counties. Newt gave a great talk about political strategy, his history building the Georgia Republican Party, the imperative that successful parties be big enough to have multiple factions that must learn to accommodate each other, and the need in public life to always be thinking about the future, putting forward big ideas and listening, always listening to what people want and need.
If there has been any glitches in an otherwise very well-managed event, last night’s transportation was not exactly flawless. It’s never easy pulling off something like this, moving thousands of people from multiple far-flung locations in and out of the convention-zone. Let’s just say that there was some confusion and related frustration last night about the exit plan.
Tonight Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan is the starring attraction and for many across the country, it will be the first time they will take the measure of this dynamic Wisconsin Congressman. I think Ryan is a great pick – he cares about ideas and is serious about putting forward real future-oriented solutions. In purely selfish terms, his nomination makes it the first time in my life that someone is on the national ticket younger than me, which I can’t help but conclude makes me officially “middle aged!”
[i] Alben William Barkley, a senator from Kentucky. Barkley ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1952.