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Patriotism, High Ideals Motivate Many Convention Delegates

  • Suzanne Presto

TAMPA, Florida — Delegates at U.S. party conventions come from all 50 states and several territories with one simple job - to nominate the candidate they hope will win the presidency in November.

Ruth Hinebaugh Umbel, a delegate from Maryland at the Republican National Convention, supports nominee Mitt Romney. She has been politically active for more than five decades, but this is her first time as a delegate.

As she was setting up the party headquarters in her home area of Garrett County, before the convention, she said, "I really care about my country. I care about people. I don't think that you can elect a president or a delegate or a senator if you don't get out there and work for them.”

Hinebaugh Umbel says she has been hooked on politics since she was 10 years old. That's when she joined her father to hand out voter materials during the presidential campaign of 1952.

“I think it's either in your blood or it isn't, and it's definitely in my blood," she said.

She says the convention is a chance to meet other members of the Republican Party.

The delegates are chosen to represent their state, and it's here where they are voting for their presidential nominee.

Not everyone in the Republican Party wanted Romney to win the nomination.

James Lightweis, a teacher from Virginia and a recent college graduate, supports Ron Paul. Lightweis is also a first time delegate who raised money on the Internet to pay for his trip.

Days before the convention opened, Lightweis and fellow Virginia delegate Matthew Hurtt attended a pro-Paul rally in Florida.

Most young voters supported President Barack Obama, a Democrat, four years ago, but Lightweis says Paul appeals to people like him.

“I just look forward to making a difference here in Tampa, and I look forward to more young people joining the Republican party,” he said.

Matthew Hurtt says delegates can help shape Republican ideals.

“You know, it's a two-party system in America and, if we want to see change, I'm convinced that we have to work within one of the two parties," he said.

Delegates are party activists, says professor of politics Jennifer Lawless, of American University in Washington.

“They're the people who are encouraging other people to get out and vote, and they're the ones that have really organized within their own states," she said.

She says it's vital for delegates to be happy and enthusiastic in order to turn out the votes for their candidate on election day.