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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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NY’s Tampa Delegates

Recognizing that millions of Americans were seeing him for the first time, Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s vice presidential nominee in 1992, famously asked during a televised debate, “Who am I, why am I here?’

Variations of those same questions could be posed to the delegates spending Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Florida at the Republican National Convention (RNC).

Having been a delegate to the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia, and as someone who is in Tampa this week as a credentialed member of the media, the first question is easy to answer. If New York’s party leaders support the eventual nominee throughout the primary season, the elected RNC delegates are usually either current or former elected officials. If the state and county GOP chairs get behind the wrong candidate, as was the case in 2008, when they backed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the elected delegates are party activists who aligned themselves early in the process with the winner of New York State’s GOP presidential primary. Four years ago, that was Senator John McCain.

The Long Island delegates pledged to former Governor Mitt Romney are mostly either current or former elected officials because Romney was the state GOP’s official choice in the April 2012 presidential primary. Governor Romney won 62 percent of the statewide vote in April, and ran even more strongly in Nassau, receiving 70-plus percent of the county’s total votes. The registered Republicans who participated in April’s primary sent to Tampa two Romney-pledged delegates from their Congressional District (CD), although they may not have known it at the time. Nassau’s Romney delegates include an incumbent Hempstead town councilman and a former North Hempstead town supervisor while Suffolk’s Romney delegates consist of a state assemblyman and a former U.S. House member, among others. An aside: delegates pay their own way to the RNC, and that gets me to ‘why they are here.’

Delegates have a front-row seat to an historic event, which unfolds over four days, and they get to choose the presidential and vice presidential nominees of their party. There’s also a great likelihood a delegate will cross paths and chat with a notable politician or media personality at some point, and that’s one of many reasons there’s no substitute for being at the RNC.

In addition, there are numerous events scheduled to fill a delegate’s daytime hours and, if they’re so inclined, their late nights, after the convention’s evening proceedings have concluded.

With influential policymakers gathered in one place, organizations host public policy gatherings to convey their messages, often in the morning. Transamerica & The Financial Services Roundtable, for instance, hosted a forum on The Changing Face of Retirement on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at Transamerica’s office in St. Petersburg, FL. Meanwhile, National Journal and The Atlantic, along with CBS News, held a breakfast panel discussion on Down Ballot: The Top Senate and House Races of the Cycle on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at a renowned Tampa restaurant.

In reviewing the RNC’s late-night musical entertainment, I decided early on to take a pass on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sunday, Aug. 26 performance. Kid Rock, however, is a different story, and I began plotting weeks ago to secure tickets to his show.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net