ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Nevada Republican Party was deemed so inept last week by the Republican National Committee over its delegate selection process that its delegation couldn’t get a sponsor for breakfast.
Who ever heard of a Republican not being able to find a lobbyist? But that’s where the lack of love for Nevada ended here in the Twin Cities.
Despite the perfect storm of political and natural events that turned the public face of this celebration on Monday into a funeral, these Nevada delegates are getting plenty of inspiration. More on that later.
Meanwhile, a few thousand protesters were milling around downtown Monday morning and trying to accumulate around the capitol building. Just as Gustav officially made landfall southwest of New Orleans, the protesters were hoping to rain a surge of anti-McCain sentiment for the world’s press to see.
"We drove in from Milwaukee because we cannot let the Republicans show off their message of war and breaks for the rich without letting the common Americans know that we are here to try to balance that BS," said Amanda Benson, 20, wearing a shirt that read "Bush Lied."
Throughout downtown, this stalled convention is still having trouble getting into party mode. The campaign is in a tough position monitoring events in the Gulf Coast and fearful of a split-screen depicting mirth against sorrow, or even worse.
Timing is everything in politics and McCain worked hard to halt Obama’s momentum after the Democrat’s successful acceptance speech last week with his own short-term bump over the announcement of his running mate, Sarah Palin.
This week was designed to build on what the campaign calls a "historic" moment. But from the outside, this convention feels like a plane in a holding pattern circling above until the protests and the storms subside.
In the delegation hotel, it was all business as usual, with the added benefit of an impromptu passing of the hat and prayers — lots of prayers — for hurricane victims.
McCain, fresh off his newfound public disgust about lobbyists, tapped uber-lobbyist Charlie Black to speak to the Nevada luncheon. Black, a top campaign adviser, told Fortune magazine back in June that another terrorist attack inside the United States would help McCain. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," he said.
As a lobbyist he represented the likes of Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, but he claims he always cleared his stuff with the State Department first.
Maybe he’s just playing in the new lobbying world, which by only two-degrees of separation can go from Black to Mark Penn to Hillary Clinton.
But it sure sounds a lot like more of the same from here.
Black was strictly on message, saying he had the first non-political conversation with McCain that he’s had in 30 years. McCain’s message to the delegation: "Tell them to pray for the people of Louisiana and the other Gulf states."
Black actually said "pray" three times and then urged the delegates to "participate financially" for the hurricane relief efforts. "You might not always agree with every position (McCain) takes … but you will always know that he arrived at that decision by putting self second and the country first," Black said. He also said McCain would be in Nevada "a lot" during the remainder of the campaign.
McCain’s 95-year-old mother, Roberta, looked fabulous as she addressed the delegation, thanking them for having her and their work for "God and their country." In and out in two minutes, lots of pictures. No questions. Darn.
"Senator McCain likes to surround himself with strong women," Nevada GOP Chair Sue Lowden said.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the former Idaho governor, also made the rounds.
Way back when Kempthorne was a senator, he rarely met an environmental issue he didn’t champion — for commercial interests. Whether agitating to change the Endangered Species Act or the Safe Drinking Water Act or opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve to drilling. Kempthorne minced no words, mixing his official business with his political duties — reminding the delegates that McCain is "strong."
Delegates are awash in the country-first theme of the campaign. Retired Air Force Col. Bill Elander, a Medal of Honor winner and delegate from Sparks, introduced fellow former POWs for McCain.
Retired Navy Capt. Jerry Coffee did his best woody woodpecker, describing the tap code POWs developed to communicate. He encouraged delegates to "work hard," especially through their churches.
The delegates will get plenty more fired up at the Arizona breakfast today. The headliner is Grover Norquist of the National Taxpayers Association.
Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at email@example.com.