My Day at the GOP Convention

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Today was an eventful day for me at the RNC Convention! Since I am not a delegate, this is about as close as I was able to get to the Times Forum itself. Okay, a little closer than that as I attended a number of events that I had been invited to right at the security zone border. First let me say what a pleasant time I had. Contrary to some accounts you might hear on cable news, traffic is very calm and downtown is actually surprisingly empty other than delegates and the occasional protestor. Traffic in and out at the downtown exit was so smooth. I hear thought that on the busses at night after the convention may be another story! But during the day today and yesterday have been fine. The police, national guard, and secret service looked exhausted but vigilent, and all I spoke to were very polite. As a news reporter friend of mine today tweeted, I am very proud of Tampa…keep it up.

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I started the day by heading to Liberty Plaza, sponsored by Citizens United. There I spotted Gov. Mike Huckabee doing his radio show. I really respect the governor and the way he reaches across party lines for the good of the country, while also standing up for the principles he believes in. Then I headed into the makeshift theater to see the showing of “Reagan:Rendezvous with Destiny” produced by Newt and Callista Gingrich. The documentary on the life of President Reagan is one of the most thorough and all encompasing works on Reagan that I have seen. And I have seen a lot!

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Afterwards, Newt and Callista were so gracious to speak with attendees and sign books and DVDs. I had been looking forward to getting Mrs. Gingrich’s book Sweet Land of Liberty that stars Ellis the Elephant as he travels American history, and simply and eloquently identifies what makes our country so great by way of history’s most inspiring moments. My kids Lyndsey and Kyle have already fallen in love with the book. Here is an excerpt:

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“Ellis read of those coming from distant shores, arriving in a country they had never seen before. Speaking different languages, they all shared a dream–to live together in a land where freedom was supreme.” I’ll let you guess from that excerpt where Ellis got his name! What a beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations.

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Citizens United was getting ready for an exciting party tonight, but I had to run! Here is a sneak peek of the dance floor.

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Now before I move on, let me just say again, these events were all open to the public, well organized, complimentary, and fully catered. I wish more people had attended! I think the bluster of press coverage over the last few days has scared off people from going into downtown. Come check it out, convention events are lots of fun, and these are valuable events. For some ideas check out this website or my post yesterday about the YG WomanUp! Pavilion at Channelside. Tomorrow I plan to attend a national security panel with KT McFarland from the Reagan administration and a film showing at The Straz Performing Arts Center, also free with lots of fun perks.

I haven’t even mentioned all the nice people from various states and media outlets that I have met including lobbyists for the International Franchise Association and writers for the Tampa Tribune. I am not much for the slimy world of politics, but these events feel nothing of the sort. Everyone is polite, respectful, and just enjoying themselves. Even if you are a Democrat here in Tampa it is worth coming down to the convention to see your city shine!

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Finally, I ended the day with my kids and our friends from the Georgia delegation at their hotel that happened to be the place where my wife and I had our rehearsal dinner island party the night before our wedding. It was only fitting that our kids goof around at their welcome table! (Sorry for the wrinkled table cloth) This beautiful place provided us with many wonderful memories…as I am sure it will for every Georgia delegate!

Question: What has your experience been like during the convention so far?

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Woman Up! at the RNC

I wandered down to the convention early this afternoon to check out the scene. I was surprised to see that most of the areas being promoted to delegates to spend their leisure time were not crowded at all. (Apparently busses from delegate hotels by the beach were not making the trip over to the bridges to downtown because of the rain…good for Pinellas County I guess) Both Ybor City and Channelside were relatively quiet, so I took the opportunity to look around. I was on a mission to find the YG Network Woman Up! Pavilion as I’ll be attending some events there later on this week.

I passed the MSNBC stage, leaned to the right, and found myself at the Women’s Pavilion. It is open to the public and is truly one of the coolest places to chill out during the convention…even for guys! Designed solely for the convention it has big couches, a club-like atmosphere, and huge TV’s with Fox News on. Sure, you can hang out at Hooters or that Tapas place, but why wouldn’t you rather sip on a cosmopolitan at the bar, get your hair done, shop in the boutique, and watch Shepard Smith on the big screens! Okay, so you’d think a guy like me would be a little uncomfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised to find more men than women there!

The Pavilion has taken over almost the whole first floor of the Channelside complex along Channelside Drive, right across the sidewalk from the Florida Aquarium. Named in honor of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the Pavilion will play host this week to a variety of events featuring prominent women including to name a few a Foreign Policy Panel featuring KT McFarland, a panel on Women-owned businesses, and a book signing by Callista Gingrich. Here is a full schedule! I met Barbara, one of the coordinators of the Pavilion, and I have to applaud her team and the organizers for such a fun venue at the RNC!

Get a Front Row Seat for Tampa Bay

This photograph is of Downtown Tampa and Tampa...

A very exciting and unprecedented media effort that is taking place here in Tampa and is incorporated with the Republican National Convention will launch in about 10 days. It is called Front Row Tampa Bay! I want to publicize it, because the more people around the nation that take the time to watch it, the greater the effect will be.

According to their website, Front Row Tampa Bay, presented by the Tampa Bay Partnership will promote regional and Florida businesses with interactive business panels, featuring regional, state and national VIPs in business, industry, and the public arena, live-streamed to a targeted list of business and political leaders from a theatre complex located nearby the convention site. (Of course you can sign up to watch too, or maybe even be part of the show)

Programming will include focus on the key business sectors and leaders from Florida and Tampa Bay, commentary from top political leaders, and a look at life in Tampa Bay and Florida.

It will be interesting to see what the overall impact of the convention is on our local economy, and this effort ought to plant some seeds that  will bear fruit over time. Although Florida is a top tourist destination because of its great weather and wonderful attractions, the media is having so much fun spinning the threats of hurricanes and making summer in Florida sound like slogging through the Amazon. In reality, most people from other cities visit and dream about what it would be like to do business in a place that combines great weather, a diverse culture, and tons of natural beauty.

I’ll try to do a few blog updates as I wander around Tampa during the convention, and attempt to determine whether my post on RNC parties ends up being correct. But if you are a business person or thinking about moving to Tampa, your best source for true on the ground reporting that extends beyond all of the political banter will be Front Row Tampa Bay and their Facebook and Twitter feeds.