Donna Brazile's 10 ways to navigate the convention

Story highlights

  • Democratic insider Donna Brazile offers tips to get through the convention
  • Brazile was Al Gore's campaign manager
  • She also briefly ran the DNC in 2011 as interim chair
1. Plan your time. Conventions are like three-ring circuses with many events going on at the same time. You may want to take in a platform meeting, tour the hospitality suites set up by the states and lobby groups, drop in on a state's caucus meeting. You'll want to be present for the one-hour televised time in the evening. Reserve some time in the morning, or afternoon, for touring Tampa and sampling its historic sites, shopping areas and restaurants.
2. Watch the media for reports that track delegate diversity. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has been tracking the ratio of minority delegates at the conventions for 40 years. In 2008, it found that 36 of the 2,380 Republican delegates were African-American. Women delegates were at a 40-year low. Another nearly all-white convention will make it hard for the Republicans to sell themselves as a majority party.
3. Watch Ron Paul delegates and their activities. In return for not making waves, the Ron Paul delegates, who are the most opposed to Romney, have been given a say in the platform, and his son, Sen. Rand Paul, has been given a speaking position. How satisfied Paul's delegates are with their treatment at the convention could decide whether or not they work for the ticket this fall.
4. If Nevada has an open caucus, make time to attend it. Most of the delegates, though legally pledged to Romney, are fervent Ron Paul supporters (are there any other kind)? They've gotten up a petition signed by more than half the Nevada delegates to place Ron Paul's name in nomination. Romney strategists are determined to prevent it, and will likely succeed. However, Paul delegates have an almost religious fervor about their candidate and their issues. This struggle could provide some compelling drama at the convention.
5. Watch the opposition. In times past, each party left the other party alone during their respective conventions. But contemporary campaign strategy holds the opposition party should have a visible and active presence at their opponents' convention. The idea is to squelch attacks against them before they can take root in the public mind. Vice President Joe Biden had been scheduled to be in Tampa to tamp down partisan points against the Democrats, but Tropical Storm Isaac forced him to change plans. Still, expect a Republican presence in Charlotte, too.
6. Conventions are an opportunity to meet new people, especially those who hold positions in the party similar to yours. It's a national convention, so if you're a county commissioner, look up the county commissioners from other states and swap notes. You'll have an opportunity to meet the presidential candidates who didn't make it, and offer them your thanks and admiration. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and others will be walking around the convention events. Though Republicans generally detest journalists, there will be an estimated 15,000 present. You may get to meet your favorite.
7. Pick your favorite speakers. Convention sessions are composed of endless speeches. It's a chance to hear in person the best oratory the party has to offer. At the RNC, North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are scheduled to speak during the truncated event.
8. Soak up the historic moment. While television no longer offers gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conventions, they remain pivotal in our electoral process. You can be certain the "party faithful" are watching. Enjoy being part of an historic event. Polls have shown that the public interest in the election surges after the conventions, and you're a part of that happening. Aside from the presidential debates, the conventions are the one event in four years where a national party actually gathers as a single entity, and puts its best programs and propositions forward to the American people.
9. Enjoy yourself. Pace yourself. Plan. In the 1950s, someone calculated that if a person spent only one second at each exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum, it would still take decades to see every exhibit. Conventions are similar. They have multiple events taking place at the same time; it's impossible for one person to take everything in. So, look over the convention handbook, pick and choose your interests, and be sparing in what you select. You want to go home relaxed and exhilarated, not spent as if participating in an Olympic Decathlon, rushing from one event to another so they all become a blur. Three events a day should make for an even pace, with enough time allotted to fully appreciate each one.
10. Be comfortable. One Pennsylvania delegate tells how he came across Rick Santorum who was wearing shorts and flip-flops during the 2008 Republican Convention. You don't have to be that casual, but choose clothing that is loose and cool and comfortable. And make certain your shoes are comfortable and appropriate for long days and long walks. If you will be attending formal affairs, of course include evening wear.
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