by: Blair Miller Updated:
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29
Something’s missing from Tampa, and Charlotte needs to take notice.
City leaders here in Tampa have long said they expected 10,000 protesters and demonstrators this week. But we’re three days into the convention and Tampa police said they have seen hundreds of demonstrators, not thousands. And even more amazing, they have arrested two people. It is possible we could see some kind of massive protest tomorrow on the day that Gov. Mitt Romney is to take the stage for his acceptance speech. But there are 4,000 members of law enforcement here including police, FBI and Secret Service and many of them are surprised to see such low numbers.
Maybe it was the threat of a hurricane that kept them away. Whatever the reason, this could be bad for Charlotte. As someone with Charlotte’s Host Committee told me today: “Typically the second convention has more protests and some of the demonstrators who skipped Tampa might be planning to come to Charlotte.”
Historically, political conventions have equaled disturbing images of protesters causing damage. In 2008, Denver police arrested 154 people at the DNC. Minneapolis (RNC host) saw 818 arrests -- half of those occurred on the last day.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe came to Tampa earlier this week to see what’s working and what’s not. Apparently, their plan is working (so far). If tomorrow continues like this week, this could be one of the most peaceful conventions ever. Charlotte isn’t a city used to people throwing rocks at police or trying to damage buildings. And many back in North Carolina are already saying whatever is missing here in Tampa won’t turn up in Charlotte next week.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 28
Most of the delegates already feel like they've been in Tampa for a week. With the threat of Isaac and the one-day delay to the start of the convention, everyone here is glad to get the show on the road. When I walked into the Tampa Bay Times Forum today where the convention is being held, I could feel the excitement of all the delegates; many of them with cabin fever and just happy to be out of their hotels. It's a long day for them. The buses rolled into downtown Tampa around 1 p.m. and the delegates will get back to their hotels around midnight.
The prime time speeches you see on TV are big for the convention itself. Tonight includes Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley's speech was scheduled for 9:45 (before the TV networks go on air). Most of the early-afternoon speeches include nervous political newcomers and their speeches last maybe two to three minutes. At times, it's not very exciting. But to see the roll call and the official nomination of a candidate is really amazing. It's American democracy unfolding in front of your eyes. Yes, we all know that Romney is the Republican candidate and has been for a while. But to think that this is part of the process for electing an American president is special.
Sure, we take it for granted. Sure, people aren't as excited about a political convention as much as they used to be. And sure, it's a little old-fashioned. But at the end of the day, it's necessary and it's part of the United States of America. So when you sit back and watch some of the convention (RNC or DNC), take a moment to appreciate the political process instead of wondering when it might be over.
MONDAY, AUGUST 27
The Grand Ole Party is in a pickle.
I'm sure everyone realizes that both political conventions include serious business for their party’s platform but they also include lots of parties and fun events. Most of it is lavish and a chance for the delegates to kick back too. Both conventions do it and have been for years.
But here’s the problem: a few hundred miles away people are bracing for flooding and awful winds. I hope and pray that Isaac has minimal to no impact on the people who live along the Gulf Coast. But the forecast says otherwise. So how does a political party celebrate? Do they cancel? Should Governor Mitt Romney end the RNC early?
Few of the delegates are openly having that conversation but many of the Republican insiders are -- big time. Does strategy really play a role when lives are at risk? Florida Governor Rick Scott today said he couldn’t be part of the RNC because he needed to focus on the storm. Does he score political points for doing that? I’m not suggesting that’s why he did it.
In the next few days or maybe even hours, this conversation will start to become more common. People will start to question if the Republicans did the right thing (whatever is decided). But the problem is there’s no clear answer either way. Republicans will be criticized for whatever happens. And so will the Democrats when they react.
Only one thing is for sure: People should stop and think about the people bracing for another storm, not the ones celebrating a political party, Republican or Democrat.