I spent the last week here in Tampa, Fla., roaming the city and the floor of the convention hall with a video camera, reporting with The New York Times.
These conventions have become mostly acts of stagecraft, with every minute carefully scripted and managed (except for the rare moment when a “mystery guest” decides to talk at length to an empty chair). There’s rarely any high drama on the floor, and little room for debate or discord. Protesters are briskly ushered out by the hundreds of security agents inside the hall, and no real discussion is encouraged outside of committee meetings in hotel conference rooms. But there was one moment on Tuesday, when supporters of congressman Ron Paul and other grassroots delegates like the Tea Party, objected to a change in the rules that they believed gave the party apparatus greater power over the selection of delegates. I connected with the delegation from Maine which, through a clever calculation of the rules and the power of local participation, had a large majority of Ron Paul supporters among its ranks, even though Paul did not place first in the Maine caucuses. Half of Maine’s delegates were stripped from the delegation by the RNC brass the previous week, and they were fighting mad. I happened to be right next to the microphone when the remaining Paulites in the delegation rose to object and were ignored by the speakers at the podium and shouted down by other delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Here’s the piece as it ran on the NYTimes site.