Saturday, May 30, 2009

Liveblogging the RPV Convention - 2009

9:47 a.m.: The excitement is palpable along Bloggers' Row here in the Richmond Coliseum. Excitement might not be the right word for it. Minor panic is better: the electrical outlets on which our computers and other devices rely just blew out. Too many bloggers on one circuit? Who knows? Word is "The blew a fuse but they're going to fix it." Stay tuned.

9:50 a.m.: The Coliseum is filling up much more slowly than expected, considering that the program is scheduled to begin in scant minutes. First up: gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, followed by syndicated talk radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity. No doubt delegates and guests rolled out of bed slowly after a heavy night of hospitality suites sponsored by candidates and interest groups at the Richmond Convention Center and neighboring hotels (Marriott and the new Hilton Garden Inn, occupying the old Miller & Rhoads department store building). Rumor has it that the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) suite lasted until 2:00 a.m.

9:54 a.m.:
Speaking of AFP, I attended a breakfast this morning that was sponsored by that group and its subsidiary, Patients United ( The topic was health care and how we must combat the socialization of medicine in the United States. You'll be hearing more from this group as the Obama administration works to Canadianize the health-care sector of the U.S. economy.

Speakers at the AFP breakfast included Kay Cole James (former director of the Office of Personnel Management in the Bush 43 administration), Delegates Ben Cline, Brenda Pogge, and John O'Bannon, and Tito the Builder.

10:04 a.m.
The public address announcer has just asked "ladies and gentlemen" to please take their seats as "we are ready to reconvene." Most folks are ignoring him.

10:09 a.m. He's still begging us to take our seats. Program is slated to begin at 10:15. Lots of people milling around, chatting, generally having a good time. The atmosphere is quite positive. You'd never know the GOP is on a losing streak from the vibes this crowd is generating.

10:11 a.m. RPV Chair Pat Mullins takes the podium and gavels the convention to order. He introduces Kay Cole James as the convention chair. "I first met Kay Cole James probably 20 years ago," he says. Walt Barbee and he convinced Tom Davis to appoint Kay Cole James to the Fairfax County School Board.

10:15 a.m. Kay Cole James takes the gavel. "Let's get the party going!"

10:17 a.m. The Hullaballoos from the University of Virginia (or, as Ms James puts it, THE University of Virginia) present an a capella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." This is followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a trinitarian invocation.

10:22 a.m.: A video tribute to Bob McDonnell fills the large screens that flank the platform. It provides biographical information about McDonnell and his accomplishments. Elements of this video can be seen in the commercials his campaign is running on TV around the state.

10:24 a.m.: Bill Bolling takes the stage: "158 days to victory in November!"

10:28 a.m.
Bolling talks about how much he likes Bob McDonnell and how proud he has been to run for office alongside him and work with him in the General Assembly and as statewide officeholders.

10:30 a.m. Bolling says "Brighter days are on the way.... We'll restore conservative leadership to the governor's office in Virginia."

10:31 a.m. "Go, Bob go!"

10:32 a.m. Another short Bob McDonnell video. John Gerdelman of American Healthcare Solutions, a former colleague of McDonnell, takes the microphone, talks about their experience together as business associates. "Bobs4Jobs isn't just a slogan," he says. "Bob McDonnell knows how to solve complex business problems.... He's a leader, he knows how to build a team ... Bob gets results; I've seen it."

10:34 a.m.:
Colonel Gary Nelson, USA-Ret, comes to the stage. He talks about Bob McDonnell's military career. Nelson was Bob's commander for 5 of the 21 years that McDonnell was in the active and reserve services.

10:36 a.m. "Character experience" ad on the jumbo screens. Lisa Hicks Thomas, a deputy attorney general, comes to speak. "We kept the Boy Scout Jamboree here in Virginia" gets huge applause. She says "he was the best attorney general in the nation and he will be the best governor in the nation. His record says it all."

10:39 a.m. John Clodfelter, whose son Kenneth was killed on the U.S.S. Cole, takes the stage. Kenneth is remembered on a Wall of Honor in Richmond. "He knows that our heroes must be remembered ... he set aside time and he created the Virginia Wall of Honor," even though it "wasn't in his job description." "No one told Bob to do it; he did it because he felt it was the right thing to do."

10:42 a.m. Crowd erupts in chant of "USA, USA, USA"

10:44 a.m. Internet service interruption.

10:47 a.m. Chris Gill is introduced. "I'm a lawyer here in town; I don't usually start out telling people that." He talks about the "Legal Food Frenzy" that raises money and collects food for food banks across Virginia. Bob McDonnell, he says, took a local project in Virginia Beach and made it a statewide charity event. "Hundreds of law firms and thousands of lawyers across the state now participate."

10:51 a.m. Francis Stevens and his family arrive: His children attend St. Joseph's School in Petersburg. Bob McDonnell stepped in to help the school raise $1 million when it was given a three-week deadline or else it would close. They raised $900,000 in just a few days. Ruth Bonner, the principal, called it "the miracle of St. Joseph's School."

10:56 a.m. Iraq war veteran Jeanine McDonnell arrives to introduce her father, telling us to "always root for Notre Dame," which she attended on an Army ROTC scholarship.

11:02 a.m.
Bob McDonnell: "I accept your nomination to be the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia." Spontaneous chants of "Go Bob Go!" He notes this is the largest RPV convention in 15 years.

11:04 a.m. McDonnell gives a shout-out to his friends from Fairfax County, where he grew up; from Virginia Beach, where he served as a legislator; and from Henrico County, where he now lives. He quotes Ronald Reagan: I will not paint pale pastels where bold colors are required.

11:13 a.m. McDonnell references his "landslide victory" in the race for Attorney General four years ago (tongue in cheek, of course).

11:15 a.m.
McDonnell wants Virginia to be the number one state for tourism and film production, and wants to develop the top commercial space port. He wants Virginia to be the "energy capital of the East Coast," and he supports off shore drilling for oil and natural gas.

11:16 a.m. House of Delegates candidate Melody Scalley taps me on the shoulder to introduce herself. She's running in the 100th district on the Eastern Shore.

11:34 a.m. At last, Sean Hannity arrives. "Hellooooooooo, Virginia!" He gives a shout-out to Barbara Comstock (who is running for the House of Delegates) and Eric Cantor, and to Governor George Allen. He says he didn't know he'd have Barack Obama's teleprompters and that "Virginia, Yes You Can!"

Hannity plugs the Fox News Network, mentions Alan Colmes, who is "hanging out with Ted Kennedy," adding "Let not your heart be troubled: Alan is driving."

11:42 a.m. Listing all of Obama's gaffes and missteps, Hannity asks what would be the reaction if George W. Bush had done the same. The crowd ooos and boos in all the right places.

11:45 a.m. Hannity reads a lengthy quotation from Ronald Reagan in March 1975, in which he talks about the results of the preceding November's elections. He draws a comparison to the 2008 elections. "We did not seek world leadership," Reagan said, "it was thrust upon us.... Americans are hungry to feel a sense of mission and greatness." Reagan went on to say Republicans shouldn't blur the difference between themselves and their opponents. "Is it a third party we need or a revitalized second party?" Again, the reference to "pale pastels" and "bold colors," a favorite theme today.

11:54 a.m. Hannity appropriates the phrase "Yes, we can!" to apply to future Republican successes. He slips into a Bill Clinton impersonation. He says he has to watch his jokes because everybody in the media is here and "Terry McAuliffe is watching every second of this."

11:57 a.m. Sean Hannity talks about energy independence, border security, and free-market capitalism: Yes we can!

We can save children from "the mediocrity known as government schools" Yes we can!

12:00 noon "The Republican party is the party of the American dream"

12:03 p.m. Sean Hannity leaves the stage to great cheers and applause.

Kay Cole James gavels the convention to order and calls on the credentials committee chairman for a supplemental report. The credentials committee has certified 11,007 delegate votes and there are over 6,800 delegates present as well as over 1,000 guests.

12:16 p.m.
Bill Bolling has been speaking for several minutes. I had to take a break to cross the Coliseum in order to report to my unit chair, Buddy Weber of Charlottesville. (Otherwise I may not be able to cast a ballot when it comes time to vote.) Bolling is strenuously defending his record against the attacks that have come from his opponent for the nomination, Patrick Muldoon, noting that he has the support of Bob McDonnell and all three candidates for Attorney General.

12:19 p.m.
U.S. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA7) is visiting Bloggers' Row. He's chatting with various bloggers and looks quite happy. (In the photo to the left, Cantor speaks with blogger/photographer Jane Dudley.)

12:29 p.m. Patrick Muldoon leaves the stage and the crowd reacts raucously. Bolling supporters almost overwhelm the Muldoon cheers.

12:34 p.m. John Brownlee elicits more cheers and applause when he mentions Ken Cuccinelli's name than when he arrives on stage himself.

12:43 p.m. Cuccinelli opens with a Gadsden flag on the screen and waving throughout the auditorium. He appears as if by magic at the podium, emerging from the dark into the light. Heavy symbolism.

12:46 p.m. Cuccinelli argues that Republicans are in the minority in Washington and in Richmond because they have abandoned their principles. He says he will defend the constitution as it is written.

12:50 p.m. Cuccinelli talks about how he fought for the marriage amendment (a plus with this crowd but not with me) and for the Second Amendment (thumbs up!), and for property rights.

12:58 p.m.
Dave Foster talks about his deep family roots in Virginia and his ability to win elections in Northern Virginia. He emphasizes his support for McDonnell and Bolling at the top of the ticket.

If I were to judge the mood of the delegates, I'd say that Cuccinelli has the edge over Brownlee. Dave Foster must be everybody's second choice.

I tried to get the box lunch due to "VIP Delegates" (those who paid the voluntary $35 convention fee) but the line was too backed up for me to wait. I'll go hungry so I can listen to these campaign speeches.

1:02 p.m.
Foster tries a new chant: "Yes we will!"

1:13 p.m.
Bill Stanley has been speaking for about 10 minutes to advance his campaign for party chairman. "My agenda is your agenda," he says.

1:14 p.m. Pat Mullins says he is "seeking re-election" and that the last time he spoke before a state convention was to put the name of Ollie North in nomination for the U.S. Senate. He also says he is a "physical conservative," although the context suggests he means "fiscal conservative."

2:11 p.m. The voting and counting of ballots has been going on for some time now. To entertain the milling masses, the UVA a capella group, the Hullaballoos (who sang the national anthem earlier today) performed a set.

Now Ed Gillespie, former RPV chair and now chairman of Bob McDonnell's campaign, is speaking. He is here to introduce former Governor and former Senator George F. Allen, who has been recruited to give a pep talk to the troops. Will he tell us that "America is not addicted to oil, America is addicted to freedom"? Will he tell us to "start our engines"? We'll find out.

2:15 p.m.
George Allen praises Bob McDonnell, "Fireball Bill" Bolling, and the three AG candidates.

2:17 p.m. Some others who have been blogging from the RPC convention include SWAC Girl, who has a list of everyone on Bloggers' Row; Shaun Kenney, who has some "random thoughts"; and Crystal Clear Conservative, who is also live blogging. I'm sure there are more.

2:32 p.m. George Allen is talking about energy independence but the crowd is rhubarbing. Some people are sitting quietly and paying attention, others are chatting and socializing. I think he just called for Virginia to become the Qatar of the East Coast.

2:34 p.m. Governor Allen just suggested we start our conservative engines, but without the emphasis he usually puts on that phrase. "Representative democracy does not run on automatic pilot," he says.

2:36 p.m. Eric Cantor comes on stage to the strains of John Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses." Don't politicians listen to the lyrics when they pick theme songs?

2:41 p.m. Bob McDonnell is visiting Bloggers' Row. Former Governor Jim Gilmore is speaking.

3:01 p.m. Gilmore repeats tropes on energy, education, taxes. He points out that 50 percent of Americans pay no taxes and suggests that everyone should have to pay taxes. (Here's my suggestion: adopt the Fair Tax, repeal the 16th Amendment, and abolish the IRS.)

3:04 p.m.
The least prominent member of the Virginia congressional delegation, Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA4) takes the microphone. Like other speakers, he tells the crowd that Bob McDonnell will be a great governor.

3:09 p.m.
Forbes says that for the first time in history, the budget is driving defense strategy rather than defense strategy driving the budget. "Failure is failure," he says, "and we need to learn from it and move on."

3:12 p.m. Forbes is sermonizing about lions and lionesses, roars and grasslands. "If ever there was a time when America ought to run to the roar," he says, "it is this time." Lionesses are hungry and grassland animals are stupid, it seems.

3:15 p.m.
Recently naturalized citizen and Virginia Tech student Adnan Barqawi comes to the podium. He wears a uniform, which is probably a breach of protocol when it is done in conjunction with a partisan political event. His speech is heartfelt. He carries the sabre of Donald Huffman, who carried it when he was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech. Barqawi arrived in the United States at the age of 17 from Kuwait, although he was not a Kuwaiti citizen, having been descended from Palestinians. He chose to live in Virginia "because it says 'Virginia is for lovers.'" He liked the images of VT on Google Images and so he chose Virginia Tech.

3:21 p.m. Says Barqawi: "Anyone can give up ... holding it together ... is true strength." "As a freshman I learned that you cannot command if you cannot obey." "We are ultimately responsible for whom we become." "Impossible is just a word thrown around by little men..." "No one is in charge of my welfare except myself." "Diversity is embracing your culture rather than expecting the culture to embrace you."

3:25 p.m. Barqawi is going to Mississippi to teach elementary school under the Teach for America program.

3:38 p.m. "I do not call myself an Arab-American or a Middle Easterner-American, but an American." (Cheers, chants of "USA, USA!") "Some Americans have hyphens in their names because not all of them have come over."

3:33 p.m. Newly elected Alexandria city council member Frank Fannon arrives to talk about recent Republican victories in Northern Virginia. He notes that, despite Alexandria voting 72 percent for Barack Obama last November, in the May local elections, for the first time in two decades there were Republicans elected to city council.

3:37 p.m. A trivia question involving mobile phones: Who was the first Republican governor of Virginia in the 20th century? A. George Allen B. John Dalton C. Linwood Holton D. Mills Godwin. The answer, of course, is C.

HOT TIP: John Brownlee is going to ask that the convention nominate Ken Cuccinelli by acclamation.

3:42 p.m. Pat Muldoon takes the lectern to make a motion. He says he will be voting for Bill Bolling in November. He moves to nominate by acclamation. There is acclaim.

3:43 p.m. The chair recognizes Dave Foster and John Brownlee for a motion. Foster speaks first. He thanks all of the delegates for rebuilding the party and his volunteers. He also thanks "John and Ken for a great campaign." They move jointly to nominate Ken Cuccinelli by acclamation. There is BOISTEROUS acclaim.

John Brownlee takes the microphone. He will support and endorse Cuccinelli. He congratulates Ken's wife and family.

3:46 p.m.
"The chair would like to recognize Bill Stanley for the purposes of a motion." Stanley moves to elect Pat Mullins as the new RPV chairman by acclamation. "Today is a great day in Virginia because our party ... is once again unified to defeat the Democrats." "We are unified in strength ... purpose ... and in our ticket."

3:48 p.m. Another speech by Bill Bolling, now the Lt. Gov. nominee.

3:52 p.m. It's all over but the shouting. Bolling is still droning on. Crowd wants Cuccinelli.

3:53 p.m. Crowd is streaming out. A lot of delegates are eager to get home. It's been a long day.

3:54 p.m.
Remaning delegates greet Cuccinelli wildly. Ken thanks Dave Foster and John Brownlee for running good, clean race. He appreciates their support. He thanks all the delegates for "injecting so much energy into this party. We need it."

He predicts that McDonnell-Bolling-Cuccinelli will sweep in November 2009.

Cuccinelli's message is on target but the crowd is restless; not everyone is listening. Chalk it up to fatigue. Quite a few people trying to snap photos of the AG candidate, even if they have to focus on the big TV screens.

3:57 p.m. He notes that Steve Shannon has had a head start in fundraising. He asks for volunteers for his campaign.

3:58 p.m. Kay Cole James recognizes the new RPV chair, Pat Mullins. He thanks Bill Stanley, "a fine guy, right on principles."

4:08 p.m. The happy ticket:

Bill Bolling Bob McDonnell Ken Cuccinelli

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