The cancellation of tonight’s slate of activities at the RNC in Tampa Bay brings back memories of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Just like this year, the 2008 opening night was washed out because of a storm, in that case Hurricane Gustav. While the disruption was likely a minor one for most RNC attendees in St. Paul, it did throw a wrench into the works for a couple of local amateur radio hosts.
Brian “Saint Paul” Ward and I were both part of the Northern Alliance Radio Network show on AM1280 The Patriot at the time. I can’t recall the exact circumstances for why we ended up slotted to broadcast from the RNC on opening night. My wife was on the verge of giving birth to our third son and I may wanted to put as much space between her due date and being at the convention as possible. Whatever the reason, we were thrilled to have a place on the schedule.
For a couple of unpaid weekend radio guys and avid political junkies, getting a chance to do a show from the RNC was about as good as it could get. We would be on radio row with all the big names (and Hugh Hewitt). We would get access to national politicians and pundits and provide our own on-air commentary as Senator Joseph Lieberman, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush addressed the convention and the country. The whole political world was going to be watching and we were going to be right in the middle of the action right in our own back yard. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Until Gustav came along and ruined our Best Laid Plans. We still went down to the RNC that night and did a radio show. We got to meet uber political wonk (and Brian’s personal hero) Michael Barone. Barone was quite genial in engaging in an extended conversation and even introduced us to British MP Liam Fox (although Barone failed to mention the encounter in his Saturday WSJ piece called What I've Learned From the Political Convention). So it wasn’t a total loss.
But there were no speeches. No grandstanding. No celebrations. No hoopla. Mostly a lot of media types resorting to interviewing each other and trying to figure out how they were going to fill time and column space with pretty much nothing going on. Which for most of them wasn’t a big deal. If the convention was now three days instead of four it just meant one less night of activity to report on (and perhaps more time to belly up to the bar at a local watering hole). For us, the window was a much smaller one and once it closed for that Monday night it wasn’t opening again.
So as we follow the non-story stories coming out of Tampa tonight, I wonder if there’s anyone suffering a similar fate at this year’s RNC. If tonight too was going to be there one and only night and if their plans have been washed away by the inopportune timing of a storm. If so, we feel your pain.