In the Spotlight

News & Features
Election 1996
Postcard from San Diego
A daily report from the Republican Convention
by MPR News Editor Bob Collins

AUGUST 12,1996
| The Energizer | Dramatic Appearance | Thrown Out of Office |
| Alarums and Excursions | Foot Shots | The Cheesiest | Them Versus Us |

The Energizer
As Minnesota's delegates to the Republican National Convention drifted into the check in area of their hotel in San Diego Saturday, former gubernatorial candidate Allan Quist sat on a bench near the driveway and said the selection of Jack Kemp energizes the Dole campaign. Less than 10 minutes later, a power outage left most of the western half of the United States without electricity. Such are the kinds of signs that have kept political tea-leaf readers employed this election season.

Without dissent, the delegates applauded the Kemp selection even though the former Congressman has a reputation for angering the party's hard-core. But the delegates can read the polls as well as anyone and insist the selection will help close the gap with the Clinton-Gore ticket. National Committeewoman Evie Axdahl, who chaired Kemp's failed 1988 presidential bid in Minnesota, she sees Kemp's selection as a move by the Dole forces to shift THEIR candidate's economic philosophy more toward the presumptive vice-presidential nominee's side.

By the way, don't expect to see either Dole or Kemp in Minnesota. The Dole/Kemp ticket is concentration its forces heavily in California and other battleground states such as Florida, Illinois, Michigan and New York. Minnesota is seen firmly in control of the Clinton/Gore team. Delegate Quist expects the highest-ranking Republican campaigner Minnesota will see this year is Mrs. Kemp.

Dramatic Appearance
With the President and Vice President nominations all but assured, with the possibility of a floor fight over abortion removed, the anticipation of the delegates now seems focused on the Vice-Presidential-Nominee-That-Might-Have-Been. And it'll be a dramatic presentation of former General Colin Powell. Following one of many film presentations, the convention center will darken momentarily Monday night, and Powell will appear on the podium bathed in a bright, white light. Powell was courted by Republican leaders to run with Dole, but declined. This, however, will be the first time Powell has appeared before a large group of Republicans .

Thrown Out of Office
The birth of the San Diego convention has not been without labor pains. Employees in the convention's press office threw me out Saturday because I was writing down details of the official convention "calendar" for the day. "The press isn't supposed to be in here," a staffer said as she looked for someone official to escort me to the official hallway. "But this is a PRESS office ", I said. "How can you have a press office and not allow the press in? How will I find out what's going on.?" The woman told me I'd have to call the Washington office of the Dole campaign to find out what's going on in San Diego. By Sunday, a MEDIA office had been established where reporters can pick up the day's calendar .

Alarums and Excursions
Perhaps intentionally, the Director of Official Proceedings here at the convention gave a good indication just how theatrically officials are approaching this year's convention. At a briefing for journalists Saturday, he referred to one of the speeches to be given as an "act". This year's convention is highly produced with plenty of taped video vignettes and a highly orchestrated "show". One delegate calls this a four-day "infomercial." To be sure, there'll be very little spontaneity to go along with very little news. Each speaker has been invited to talk about something the party wants him/her to talk about. For example, Massachusetts Governor William Weld, one of the rising stars in the party, was asked to speak about spending and taxes in his highly-Democratic state.

But Weld wanted to speak about "something else"; presumably his stance on abortion and his continuing, if unheeded call for more tolerance in the party's Platform. The producers of the convention said "thanks, but no thanks."

Each day of the convention will have "scenes" dealing with issues the party thinks it can score on against Clinton-Gore. For all the talk about the party's position on abortion and the control the far right exerts on the party, abortion is not one of the "scenes."

Foot Shots
Minnesota Public Radio reporter Karen Boothe has been through an entire roll of film during her short stay in San Diego, but so far all she's shot are the feet of security guards. Getting into the convention center, reporters are subject to TWO searches. For most of us, that means proving that our tape recorders are really tape recorders. For Karen, additionally, that means proving the camera is really a camera. An elderly woman volunteering as a searcher digs through her knapsack and upon encountering the camera, snaps a picture. "It's my job," she says. We intend to provide her with wallet-sized photos of her feet on Thursday.

The Cheesiest
The liberal media has struck again! Republicans are passing out hospitality canvas sacks full of essentials including a Budweiser beer stein, a golf shirt, and a crushed bag of taco shells. Also included is a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese "limited convention edition" dinner with the noodles shaped like elephants. The Washington Post has set up a bin in their convention bureau where reporters are gladly tossing the food. The Post is distributing the food to homeless shelters. Two days ago, by the way, police swept the area clear of homeless people. We don't know where they were taken, yet.

Them Versus Us
The smallest delegation at this year's convention are the delegates. There are 1,990 delegates with nothing much to do and 15,000 journalists to document them not doing it.

Visit Election 1996 for access to previous Postcards
and other MPR election information.