Republicans Eager to Take on Obama

    Delegates on the floor watching speakers at the Republican National Convention, Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012. (J. Featherly/VOA)
    Delegates on the floor watching speakers at the Republican National Convention, Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012. (J. Featherly/VOA)
    TAMPA, Florida — Thousands of U.S. Republicans have gathered in Florida this week for their national nominating convention and many are eager to take on President Barack Obama in the November election.

    The delegates seem to be upbeat about the chances of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney defeating President Obama.  And they seem to feed off of each other's enthusiasm on the convention floor as they listen to speeches from Republican officials both well known and obscure.

    There is a sense of pride in the delegation from Romney's home state of Massachusetts, says delegate Jeanie Falcone.  "Absolutely! Are you kidding? We are thrilled," she said.

    A short distance away is another excited group from Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is the home state of Romney's vice presidential running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, and delegate Kevin Barthel is eager to share the moment.

    "Fantastic.  In fact, everybody knows Paul Ryan and that's the kind of guy he is.  He meets with people, he talks to people and he's a regular guy,” Barthel said.

    Romney defeated several Republican rivals to clinch his party's nomination, including Texas Congressman Ron Paul.  Paul retains an energetic following of supporters who like his positions on reducing the size of the central government and bringing home U.S. military forces from conflicts and bases around the world.

    Some Paul supporters have complained that the Romney campaign and the Republican Party establishment are not treating them with respect.

    But Texas delegate Phillip Huffines, who is a Paul supporter, says he feels otherwise.  

    "I think in all the conventions there is always something that goes on that people like to get worked up about.  But no, the Republican Party has treated Doctor Paul fairly,” Huffines said.

    Some of the delegates seem more motivated by the thought of defeating President Obama than of rallying around Romney. But Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, one of the longest serving Republicans in Congress, says he is confident the party will unify behind Romney.

    "We are in a mess, and we are in a mess because we have had too much federal government in our lives, too much taxation, too much spending, too much bureacracy, too much control of people's lives, and frankly Mitt knows how to cut through all that mess," Hatch said.

    U.S. political conventions offered much more excitement decades ago, when the identity of the presidential candidates was often in doubt until the final vote.

    Former CBS TV anchorman and reporter Dan Rather is attending his 28th political convention.

    “There used to be things decided at the conventions.  But conventions no longer decide anything because it's all decided before we get here.  So conventions, whether they be Republican or Democrat, are now more info-mercials, spin, propaganda.  That is not said as a criticism but rather how they are trying to connect and relate to the audience,” Rather said.

    Rather has his own exciting convention memories including the time he was manhandled by police while covering the raucous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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