GOP convention fur flies

March 13, 2010

By BRIAN CALLE

The fur is flying at the Santa Clara Hyatt for the California Republican Party’s 2010 Spring Convention, almost literally.

It has been an eventful couple of days so far at the CRP with new and improved more press-friendly Meg Whitman, an energetic Carly Fiorina, a slew of reinvigorated GOP loyalists and a bunch of your typical name-calling and badmouthing.

The convention kicked off with the usual poster war where campaign volunteers and staffers tried to find the best places to post their candidate’s political signage. The walls throughout the hotel and the convention center are plastered with Chuck DeVore, Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell signs—just to name the most prominent of the campaigns represented at the convention.

If you have never been to a political convention aside from the sign war, you can expect candidates trying to top each other in two other ways too: the best hosted party and who can stuff the most hit pieces under the hotel room doors of all of the sleeping convention goers.

In the battle for the best bash the Meg Whitman campaign stole the show. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Meg made an appearance at the party on a stage with cool techy-blue lighting. The staging in the room would make a video game conference planner jealous. There was a hosted bar and nice spread of food. It was definitely one of the better campaign receptions I’ve ever attended at a convention. Meg apparently spared no expense.

While smaller and more humble, United States Senate Candidate Chuck DeVore’s reception Friday definitely boasted the most interesting moment of the convention. Small dessert assortments were served as his core supporters and grassroots helpers gathered to hear from Chuck and special guest Arianna Packard, the granddaughter of one of the founders of HP, the company that one of Chuck DeVore’s primary opponents, Carly Fiorina used to run. Packard said to the group of about 50 supporters “I got involved in this initially because I was really scared we’d end up with Sen. Carly Fiorina…that would be a disaster for California and a disaster for the country.” Packard flew out from her home state of New York to campaign for DeVore and add a little fanfare and energy boost to his campaign. She also said she would help him fund-raise which, if done right, could yield a hefty return for DeVore.

Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman headlined Friday night’s dinner festivities with what looked like about 500 people. And Carly keynoted packed ballroom at Saturday’s lunch shindig. Strangely enough Meg got the entire Friday dinner essentially to herself. It was really the Meg show. And Carly essentially got the luncheon to herself, with a few openers (though judging from the décor and signage in the room, it was all about Carly). Carly’s credentials should continue to be scrutinized (heavily) but she was quite articulate and gave a speech that, from an oratory perspective, was the best at the convention. (As of writing this Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell have yet to speak in the ballroom at the convention.)

Poizner has probably had the worst showing at the convention thus far. His press conference was mostly spent talking about criticisms the Whitman campaign has hurled at him through television advertisements and Meg herself calling into question his “conservative credentials” while talking to reporters at the CRP. It was less about what Steve could do and more about what Meg has labeled Poizner to be.

On top of that, the media hammered Poizner on his position on immigration. Eventually he found himself cornered and he said that he essentially opposed providing education to the children of illegal immigrants. I am not sure whether or not this bodes well for him in the Republican primary. Time will soon tell.

One other interesting theme is the consistency in message between the three Republican candidates vying for the party nod to take on Barbara Boxer. There is not a Democrat in California Republicans loathe more than Boxer, and that is saying a lot given Nancy Pelosi resides in the Golden State, too. It seemed as though all three GOP Senate candidates used Boxer as a common theme to unite convention attendees. On the other side, Whitman and Poizner were more content bickering with each other than criticizing Jerry Brown unchallenged candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Sadly though the convention was less interesting than I had expected going in, and many of the attendees here share my sentiment. With the seeming groundswell of grassroots activism, the Tea Party movement and Democrat retirements in Congress, you would think the Hyatt would be rocking. But it really has not been that way. It is mostly the usual suspects in attendance. Campaign consultants, staffers, candidates, fundraisers and media made up the vast majority of people in attendance. One long time activist said he had been going to conventions for 20 years and this one had been among the most boring. He added that “if you took away the candidates, their staffers, the consultants and the college students the campaigns paid to be here, you would have about 22 people left.” That pretty much summed it up.

Now I am off to Saturday night dinner gala. It should be fun. Let’s hope we see a little fire in the last 24 hours of the CRP.


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