Speakers Unite Convention Delegates; Candidates Scramble for Votes
Speaking as a Fort Wayne resident, the Grand Wayne Center really did our city proud hosting the Indiana Republican Convention. Speaking to party officials attendance has exceeded their expectations and it was difficult to spy many open seats among the delegates from the press stand. The bulk of the program last night was devoted to our statewide candidates who are running unopposed and a rallying cry to get behind the party’s efforts to be more competitive at the national level.
From a logistics perspective it is frustrating that the main reason for the event that brings everyone together will ultimately drive everyone apart as we prepare for what are sure to be two major votes tomorrow. The main vote will determine the Republican nomination for State Treasurer. Not only is it difficult to predict, most people I spoke with don’t even want to hazard a guess. Each candidate had three minutes to speak last night, and it’s not clear any of them knocked it out of the park. The most cogent analysis of the candidates’ speeches came from Indy Politics’ Abdul-Hakim Shabazz who indicated that delegates were underwhelmed because they had, “heard it all before.” He’s pretty spot on with that assessment.
A convention is basically a massive caucus. Rules changes this year have pretty much taken the floor displays out of the picture, which means the only real opportunity candidates had to impress all of the delegates was with their speech. Now typically in a caucus the folks who are coming to vote have made up their mind. If you think you’re going to win it with a speech you’re probably fooling yourself. What is different about this year is that the overwhelming consensus is that none of the candidates have run a rock-solid campaign and as a result there is a dearth of widespread excitement coalesced around any of the candidates. There also may be enough undecided delegates out there to swing a first-ballot result in favor of one candidate over another.
Unfortunately none of the speeches really delivered much of anything other than the same material delegates have heard or read over the last few weeks. While three minutes is not much time to get across what sets you apart from the other candidates, they didn’t really offer delegates anything new. If delegates are undecided at this point it is because you haven’t given them reason enough to vote for them. If that’s the case repeating the same case over again isn’t going to make much headway. That said, it is hard to imagine there are really that many first-ballot votes up for grabs, but delegates may abandon the candidate they made a first-ballot pledge to quickly, particularly if they’re given a compelling reason to do so.
Marion Mayor Wayne Sebold’s team is the most logistically organized at the convention. In addition to the room key card’s I mentioned yesterday, they have charging stations set up for delegates who have a Seybold armband and are publishing a newsletter for delegates that is available online and will apparently be delivered to their doors. Most of the people I spoke with seemed to feel financial planner Don Bates had the most compelling speech, though he kind of started out rocky. He did finish strong and generated the most enthusiastic reaction, though not by much. Treasurer employee Kelly Mitchell got the loudest applause because she was the first to recognize the anniversary of the D-Day landing but the impression is she has the most momentum behind her since few took her very seriously when she first entered the race.
I will have to join the crowd and suggest that if someone is telling you with any certainty that they know how the vote will go tomorrow they’re full of it or freaking brilliant. I would suggest that Seybold may have a strong first ballot showing, as many other news sources have suggested as well. That said, he’ll be challenged to maintain that lead, particularly if votes from the lowest candidate migrate to the runner up.
The side show that is the approval of the Republican Party platform trucked along yesterday according to the party leadership’s plan so far. I heard that delegates would be receiving a packet of letters from various party officials urging delegates to adopt the proposed language without amendment. The same team that led the effort to amend the traditional marriage amendment were out in force with literature and stickers, though there didn’t seem to be as many takers. The party does have support for their stand from the traditional marriage activists, many of whom were wearing yellow buttons with blue letters indicating their support for Governor Pence and traditional marriage. A casual observation of the delegates after the speeches completed seemed to indicate more support for the platform as written. Ultimately the movement seemed to organize late for this issue and I think that while it may make some noise this morning any effort to change the platform will ultimately fail.
While the speeches went long the guest speakers had a lot of good things to say. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke about the need for the party to engage early to adopt technology tools so that they are ready when needed. He made a joke that competitors may try to tie back to one of the treasurer candidates, but it’s clear that Priebus had no idea about that and judging by the crowd reaction it did not appear that any delegates thought much of the reference. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had some great jokes but went very long and most delegates were anxious to leave and sample the food across the street.
Of the other speakers State Auditor Suzanne Crouch probably did the best job – she spoke very naturally and passionately about what she does and the support she needs for them to be successful in the fall. State Chairman came to the stage with Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” from Top Gun blaring over the PA. It was probably the most amusing moment at the dais.
Quick note for those driving in tomorrow – the Catholic Church is ordaining a new priest tomorrow and their cathedral is right around the corner from the convention center, so parking may be a bit tight. I would suggest getting down there as soon as possible.
This post was tagged under: Indiana Republican Party