So the send-off party was less party and more like a steering committee session at a Lutheran church, but there was a buzz there beyond the sugar high from some pretty darn good homemade chocolate chip cookies.
About a dozen people, including the three delegates and three alternates from the 32nd District, got together Friday afternoon at Congressman Pete Sessions’ office on Greenville Avenue across from the Arby’s in preparation for leaving for St. Paul. They weren’t just feeling beef and cheese. No, it was red meat. These people were excited. No one was talking much about McCain. They were talking about Sarah Palin. (The person that reserved that URL is JENE-YUS.)
Now the Democrat convention last week — let’s be honest. If you’re given to Obamagasms, it was the best, the tops, and the bee’s knees. (This was an older crowd in Sessions’ office. The vernacular rubbed off on me. Meh.) Barack Obama was JFK + MLK + — I don’t know, some other three-letter icon — all rolled into one.
But from an objective — or at least unconverted — viewpoint, the whole thing was pretty lackluster. The Biden announcement evoked no bounce and despite the chattering class going on an on, it’s going to be surprising if there’s much bounce after Obama’s speech.
Now, Palin may be Dan Quayle or she may be a Reagan light. (Reaganette?) But whatever proves out, she was the focus of attention, both among the delegates and on the cable channels. Not many were talking about Obama.
Jonathan Neerman, Dallas County GOP poohbah, says the Palin announcement Friday morning was working exactly as planned. He says the phones at the GOP HQ in Dallas were (he said “literally”; I groaned) ringing off the hook from Hillary voters who say they were on the fence and now going McCain. One even stopped by the office, he says, with a $1,000 check.
“Okay, so we’ll take credit for the pick,” he says.
Bruce Galloway, whose wife Carolyn is one of the delegates, couldn’t stop smiling.
But Palin, I pointed out, has little experience — just as governor and a business owner, and her constituency (about 350,000 680,000 Alaskans) is smaller than the city of Arlington Fort Worth.
“So what?” Galloway says, which I love. “They say she’ll have to learn on the job. That’s what VPs do. Their ticket, they want the president to learn on the job. Now that’s a problem. She can learn on the job. We can’t afford for Obama to have to.”
And she does have more executive experience than McCain, Obama, and Biden put together. So there’s that.
The biggest problem the GOP has had, in terms of ginning up enthusiasm, is that McCain isn’t exactly a darling of the conservative base. Donald Huffhines, one of the other delegates, admits he wasn’t a McCain man. Everyone seems to think Palin’s conservative credentials — reformer, NRA life member (woo-hoo!), pro-life, and all that — will bring the hardcore conservatives back for another look.
“She’s what we want as a Republican,” Galloway says. “The conservative base is thrilled. In the GOP, conservative women are the workers. So there’s going to be movement. And the right-to-lifers have been sitting in a corner sucking their thumbs. They’re going to be getting up and kicking in.”
I mentioned that it did seem strange that if Palin was such a bad choice, why are Democrats so upset and angry? As Admiral Horatio Nelson once said, when your enemy is making a blunder, don’t get in his way.
“They’re mad they got outfoxed. They didn’t expect this, and they know it’s going to be effective,” Galloway says, more confident than some Republicans who are worrying she may not be able to hold her own against her adversary, Joe Biden, who, say what you will, is an experienced political pugilist.
Remember when Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen debated? Yeah, they’re thinking that could happen. But they’re the silent minority among the ‘Pubbies right now. Still, the Dallas Republicans are jazzed.
“I think a lot of soccer moms are about to become hockey moms,” says June Rentmeetser, one of the alternate delegates, who was at the 2004 convention. She likes Palin’s support of offshore and ANWR drilling, as well as the fact that Palin is an Army mom. “Picking her really made clear the choice we’re facing. It shows the difference.”
When the meeting was called to order, Neerman gave a rundown on some of the basics. There was talk of the uniforms the delegates would be wearing. Texas GOP delegates always wear distinct uniforms and cowboy hats to conventions, and it sounds like any other college frat uniform — khakis and navy blazers one day, denim shirts the next, and so on. There’s going to be a blog from the Dallas delegates.
The Dallas folks are like a honeymooner on Viagra. They’re leaving Sunday for St. Paul. They’re not worried that the President is going to be an albatross for McCain. “He’s his own man,” they say. They’re worried a little about Hurricane Gustav putting a damper on things, but the new Louisiana governor, one of their own, is probably more capable than the last governor, who mishandled pretty much everything when Katrina hit.
“The Democrats talk change,” one of the delegates says, sounding suspiciously like a talking point. “McCain and Palin are change.”
Honest hope or quiet desperation? Who can say? It’s going to come down to whether the Palin high has the same good legs that, well, she has. And whether the initial buzz stays or wears off as fast as that chocolate chip cookie buzz did for me.
Next up: Dallas GOP watching parties.