Fla. delegation a long haul from GOP convention
PALM HARBOR — To hear the jokes, you'd think the Florida delegation isn't even in Florida for the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Day after day, politicians and others have been cracking one-liners about the hotel assignment the delegation received after the state broke national party rules and held an early presidential primary. The delegates are about 30 miles north of the convention hall, which is a long haul for the state just about everybody says is the key for Mitt Romney to win the presidency. And it's been noted. When California Congressman Kevin McCarthy addressed the delegates at a breakfast this week at the Innisbrook Resort, he quipped, "I know that you're committed otherwise you wouldn't go to another state to attend a convention in your own state."Each morning, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam hosted a delegate breakfast with guest speakers. Many of them opened their remarks with comments about how far out the resort was from Tampa. Even Putnam got in on the routine. "I bet you didn't think you'd be staying in Georgia for the convention in Florida," he said. On Tuesday, Putnam gave a long, flattering introduction for Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno. Then he turned and realized Fortuno wasn't around. "The jokes about Innisbrook just keep on coming," Putnam said, after checking on Fortuno's status. "He's in Innisbrook, but he's in the wrong building."On top of that, the delegation had bus issues. On the first day of the convention, buses sent to pick up the delegation were late, and one got lost on the way to the convention arena. Delegate Melissa Nash of West Palm Beach said the location was an inconvenience, especially since it took two hours to get to the convention. "It adds four hours to your day there and back" she said. "But we're spending a great time together on the bus. We're making the best of it." The Republican National Committee had warned the state party that among other punishments for voting early would be getting booted to the end of the list when handing out hotel assignments. Nash opposed the early primary, but even still, she had a different take on why Florida was punished. ."I would like to think that Floridians were being hospitable to the guests that were coming into our state and that we gave the better locations to our guests. My cup is always half full," Nash said. "The speakers have been great, the breakfasts have been great. RPOF could not have done a better job of rolling out the red carpet." State party chairman Lenny Curry said the location wasn't important to him. "The task at hand is electing Mitt Romney, and as far as I'm concerned, they can put me in a tent. I don't care as long as we turn the country around. I'll sleep in a sleeping bag under the stars," he said.