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

AUGUST 13,1996
| United They Stumble | Deflation | Securing Humor |
| Big Tent Shrink | Bzzzz | Tastes Change |

United They Stumble
Unity. Say it, spell it, use it in a sentence. Reporters here are tiring of hearing how unified the Republican Party is at this convention . So many delegates have said it so many times during interviews that it's clear they've been instructed to do so. It all fell apart Monday afternoon when Massachusetts Governor William Weld and California Governor Pete Wilson began a TV interview on the floor of the hall. The two are well-known for their pro-choice views, and during the interview they were shouted down by those opposed to legalized abortion. Later, former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber, shaken that the finely orchestrated convention had shown a flaw, called the delegates "jerks."

So far Wilson and Weld are the big losers at the convention with their failed attempt to get the party to adopt a more tolerant platform. For Weld, that makes him a winner back home in Massachusetts. He's locked in a tough Senate race with John Kerry in a state that invented moderate Republicanism.

On Monday morning, Paul Braun, the right-hand man of State Party Chairman Chris Georgacus, relayed the rumor that "somebody big" would appear at the Minnesota delegation's meeting on Tuesday. Initial rumors were Kemp. Those were tempered by further rumors that former Congressman Vin Weber would be the star. And most of the air went out of the balloon of hope late Monday afternoon when national party officials told me it would be former disk jockey Adrian Cronauer of "Good Morning, Vietnam" fame.

Securing Humor
Minnesota, you've got a fight on your hand when it comes to "nice," that's the early return from most folks visiting San Diego this week. Journalists who've been frisked in just about every state have decided that getting through security in San Diego, while thorough, is nothing if not entertaining. Reporters who have traditionally enjoyed the challenge of trying -- and usually failing -- to get Secret Service agents to smile are having no fun at all. In San Diego Monday night, several security people had relaxed their buttoned-down look and donned Fox News hats. Several of us decided that those earpieces they wear probably are broadcasting "Married with Children." We're concerned.

Big Tent Shrink
The oldest delegate in San Diego is 93-year-old Jeannette Riel of Vero Beach, Florida. The youngest is Jason Philip Brinton of Salt Lake City, Utah. The Republican "big tent" is smaller this year than four years ago: in 1992 5% of the delegates were black; this year African Americans make up only 2.5% of the number of delegates. There is one African-American delegate from Minnesota, Denise Walker of Brooklyn Center. On Monday, her first convention day on the floor, she said the experience was as memorable as when she had her first child.

Strange scene: a person in a bee outfit greeted visitors arriving at the convention center on Monday. We don't know why. And at the AT&T filing center, media members are invited to use the phones for free long-distance phone calls to the newsrooms back home. I tried several times to reach Minnesota but kept getting those silly recordings that my call couldn't go through. Let's keep this to ourselves, but I wasn't alone, and the word has slowly crept through "Radio Row:" the AT&T phones work best when you use them to reach an MCI operator.

Tastes Change
The word is in: San Diego's bars have had to adjust to the tastes of delegates from outside the area. "This area is nothing but frozen drinks and beer," says Mike Dilonardo who handles the crushed ice and frozen liquor drinks supplies to the convention center. "Brown liquor like whiskey and bourbon does nothing here." Except for this week.

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