Florida RNC delegates assigned to remote Innisbrook
TAMPA - Hotel assignments for the Republican National Convention are out and, as expected, the Florida delegation will have a lengthy commute to the center of action in downtown Tampa. But it's not as bad as it might have been. The state's delegates will stay at the posh Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, albeit 28 miles from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The faraway assignment came under national Republican Party rules after the state held its presidential primary early, on Jan. 31, violating the party's primary schedule. Florida, as the nation's top swing state and convention host, would normally have been assigned digs near the Forum, site of the convention this August.But James Davis, spokesman for the RNC Committee on Arrangements, denied there was any "punishment" involved. Davis said the committee placed 56 delegations - 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia - in 36 of the 105 convention hotels in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties based on the sizes of the delegations and their requests concerning price, meeting space and other accommodations. "We tried to put it together like a puzzle," he said. One of the biggest problems, he added, was accommodating the four largest delegations - California, New York, Texas and Florida - without splitting them up." Innisbrook may not be close to the Forum, but it's a deluxe resort, with golf handy. "All these hotels are places we would recommend to our friends and family," Davis said. Massachusetts, home of Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive nominee, was assigned the Tampa Marriott Waterside, next door to the Forum and Tampa Convention Center. Michigan, Romney's second home state, was assigned the Embassy Suites Downtown Tampa, adjacent to the Forum. The Hyatt Regency Tampa, a few blocks from the Forum, went to Wisconsin (Priebus' home) and Mississippi, home of Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman, former chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a longtime major fundraiser. Pennsylvania, home of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, will be at the DoubleTree Hotel Tampa Westshore Airport on West Shore Boulevard. The delegation from Georgia, home of candidate Newt Gingrich, was assigned the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, off the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Florida will share Innisbrook with the South Carolina delegation. Floridians might also expect their seats on the convention floor to be less than the choice, front row-center assignments they might have expected. State delegates will also lose guest and VIP passes they normally get to hand out to friends, but RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who gets to decide what to do with the forfeited passes, is expected to simply hand most of them back.