Day One Of The Republican National Convention: Social Media Studies, Ron Paul Rebellion, And Valuing Our Veterans

A look at the convention stage.



The first day of the Republican National Convention, the session lasted roughly forty-five seconds. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus sounded the gavel to start the session, then after a brief remark about recessing until Tuesday, sounded the gavel again to close the session. Despite that ‘blink-and-you-missed-it’ opening session, the first day of the Convention was action packed for those of us in the media.

With tropical storm #Isaac bearing down on Tampa Sunday (the reason that Monday’s session was postponed), I wasn’t sure I’d make it in time to catch the first day, which was titled, “We Can Do Better”. Fortunately, we manage to land between rain bands and had only a few small jolts along the way.

A display inside the Daily Briefing location.

Monday morning started off by picking up Press Credentials, essential in gaining access to the Tampa Bay Times forum (where the Convention is held) and the Tampa Bay Convention Center (where the Media Center is located). My day began at Carne Chophouse in historic Ybor City, at the National Journal/Atlantic Daily Briefing. Focusing on social media the panel included Mitt Romney’s Digital Director Zac Moffatt. The opening remarks set the tone for the discussion: “It was a great moment when Reagan said, ‘I paid for this microphone’. With social media, everyone has the microphone.” Two other quotes I found particularly interesting were “The number of Twitter followers you have doesn’t matter. Anything can go viral if it’s compelling”, and “The 24-hour news cycle has become the 140-character news cycle. It’s real-time news like never before”. In fact, more Tweets about the convention were tweeted this past Sunday than were tweeted during the entire 2008 Republican and Democratic Conventions combined.

Paul supporter Cynthia Kennedy.

After the Daily Briefing, I headed to the Forum. As mentioned, the first session was brief, but not without incident. As I cut across a section of seats, headed for coffee, I heard a small crowd begin chanting “President Paul! President Paul!” Looking down, I saw that this coalition had gathered directly below me; in addition, a man slid past me, a Ron Paul poster firmly in hand. He proceeded to lean over the railing in front of us and hold the poster over the word “We” in the large “We Can Do Better” that was emblazoned on the wall below us, where the Paul fans had gathered. After several minutes, he asked a man nearby to give him some tape. The man asked, “Are you a delegate?” The Paul supporter replied, “Alternate delegate”, to which the tape-wielding man replied, “Good, I wouldn’t want to help you get thrown out if you were a regular delegate.” Another Paul supporter Cynthia Kennedy told reporters, “When you hear Reince Priebus saying that everything is hunky dory…nothing could be further from the truth”.

The Paul people were protesting a rule change that had recently been made affecting the way delegates are selected. Understandably, delegates who had their positions taken away and replaced with “alternate” designations were outraged. The debate over the rule change continues, although a compromise may smooth things over

Actor Jon Voight gives a radio interview.

Shortly after the Paul demonstration, I headed to the Media Center. Larger news outlets have dedicated space, but Special Press gets to enjoy the “we’re in this together” spirit of a communal Filing Center. Over on Radio Row, there were several sightings of notable conservatives. Along with dozens of radio personalities, I saw SE Cupp and spoke briefly with Jon Voight and Victoria Jackson. Voight was quite kind and humble, thanking me for taking time to chat with him.

Victoria and I on Radio Row.

Later at Politico’s Kickoff Newsmaker Interview event, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called President Obama “an historic figure and an affable man”, going on to say that “his is a story we celebrate. But we cannot celebrate 23 million un- and underemployed people in this country.” After his introductory interview of McDonnell, Politico’s Mike Allen welcomed a panel including several key members of the Romney campaign. They spoke about technology and media and how they change the way news is shared and campaigns are run today. Asked about the Romneys’ whereabouts, Gail Gitcho–Romney’s Communications Director–remarked that Mitt and Ann were back home in Massachusetts finishing their speeches, and were likely thrilled that most of their team was busy with the panel instead of “having us around asking them to do things”.

Politico’s Mike Allen, Romney Campaign’s Lanhee Chen, Gail Gitcho, Brian Jones and Zac Moffatt

After the panel, Politico’s space inside the Riverwalk Tower transformed into a lounge for the remainder of the evening. I was fortunate to meet John P. Rowan, CEO and National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America. John, a New Yorker who bounces back and forth to DC to testify before congress and otherwise advocate for veterans’ health issues, introduced me to his colleagues: Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy & Government Affairs; James F. Kuhn, Senior Advisor; and Dr. Wayne Reynolds, National Treasurer. Over the course of the evening, I learned many things about these men. Dr. Reynolds is a former school Superintendent. Mr. Kuhn spent over a decade working with President Reagan, describing him as one of the kindest men he’d ever met. The men shared their own opinions; one said he was bothered that Mitt Romney was able to get a military deferment to go to France on a religious mission. Another said he didn’t know why that got so much attention when neither Obama nor Clinton had served either. A third said he got a deferment himself while he completed graduate school. The fourth stated that he felt a period of military service should be compulsory for all Americans, as it is for Israel and for many European nations. One thing the men did agree on was the issue of Veterans’ Health, saying that supporting the health needs of America’s veterans is not about political parties, but about people. They work closely with Republicans and Democrats alike to draw attention to this issue, and asked me to share the website for any veterans who may read this and need assistance with their own healthcare needs.

John Rowan, President of Vietnam Veterans of America.

As we look ahead to Day Two of the convention, there will be an opportunity to hear from key speakers during the evening session. In addition, I am attending the first of many film screenings sponsored by Citizens United in Liberty Plaza. This area is outside the protected convention area, near where the protesters plan to gather. Check back tomorrow to find out what happens next!