For the sin of scheduling its primary too early, the Florida delegation to the Republican National Convention received a long list of punishments. The most debilitating hand slap? Billeting the state’s delegates, journalists and political groupies at the Innisbrook Resort at Palm Harbor. It’s so far away from the convention in downtown Tampa, which must by reached via a heinous gauntlet of traffic, that more than one delegate may enjoy a few speeches via CNN (sorry, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus) reclined on their hotel room beds, half-disrobed and covered in a fine spray of minibar smokehouse almonds.
But why, when the harsh punishment of long-distance housing was being passed out, did the New York Republican Party (and we journalists assigned to observe their politicking and partying) get just as badly spanked?
Why Montana? Puerto Rico? South Dakota? Washington State? What have they all done to earn beds and boudoirs in this Hooterville of a commuterville?
They’ve committed the sin of being slam dunks, for one side or the other.
Florida’s Republicans broke the rules, and knew they’d be punished for it, having committed the same primary sins in 2008. The national party’s leaders had tried to institute the strict “no cuts, no buts, no coconuts” rules used in elementary-school lunch lines to govern the schedule of primaries, and Florida tried to hop to the front of the queue. The rule is that only the “early four,” Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, can hold primaries before March. But Florida, antsy for the national spotlight, scheduled its contest for Jan. 29, forcing the other four to recut the line and move their dates even further up to stay out front.
For this, the Sunshine State Republican Party lost 49 of its 99 delegates, 160 guest passes and the right to camp in the same county where they’ll convene.
The New York delegation is housed with the Puerto Rico attendees at the Clearwater Hilton, a lovely beachfront resort perfect for doing anything, as long as you don’t want to do it in Tampa. New York is being punished for hailing from a state President Barack Obama is going to win by a combination landslide/avalanche/voter inferno.
Ditto Puerto Rico and Washington State, where the only way Romney would triumph is if Obama got caught using a Kenyan passport as proof of age to get into an Ecstasty-fueled rave.
And Montana and South Dakota? Their delegates have been sharing buses with New York’s folks between Clearwater, Tampa, and a Sunday night greet-and-sip an hour away in a third direction, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. These states have committed the sin of being too easy for Romney. Like a woman who doesn’t hold out for serious wooing, they won’t be getting any wooing at all. States are a lot like potential romantic partners: No one expends a lot of energy on the guaranteed "yeses" or the certain "nos." It's only the maybes who rate flowers and candy.
But late Monday morning, as the winds and rain of Isaac fizzled, then passed, it was looking like the slam dunk states would have the last laugh. When the sessions get canceled for a storm that never arrives, you’d much rather be adjacent to the sand and surf in Clearwater or Palm Harbor than next to a cavernously empty convention center in the concrete jungle of downtown Tampa.