Western Republican Leadership Conference, Day 1

Aloha from Las Vegas and the Western Republican Leadership Conference (WRLC),

I’ll send daily comments about the activities, people and politics.  It will give you an idea of what occurs at these conferences to encourage you to make the next one.  If you are not interested, you can let me know but I won’t have time to take you off the address list so instead you can simply delete the next two WRLC reports.

I am told that at least 15 people from Hawaii registered though I haven’t seen that many, yet.  Depending on the information flow and the organizations represented, you may receive reports from our members who are here.  There are also some here, I’ll mention later, who have long and strong ties with HRP.

There is the normal hustle and bustle of Las Vegas and the Venetian but once away from that crowd, there are about 800 registered for the conference.  Not all attend each event as you’ll see below.

This is actually a Day 1 1/4 report.  As a prelude to the conference, the CNN-sponsored Presidential debate was Tuesday evening at the Sands Exhibition Hall.  Another opportunity for Romney to deliver a knockout blow (he didn’t but he held his own in a heavily pro-Romney crowd), Perry to get his swagger (he didn’t but showed much more fight) and for Cain cement a top-tier position (he didn’t but played good defense).  Huntsman boycotted the debate to try to get NV to change their Jan caucus date (to facilitate the NH primary).  You can decide who ‘won’ the debate.  It was exciting.  Celebrities were introduced before the debate.  It is a little orchestrated with a ‘producer’ on stage urging us to, for instance, cheer when CNN came out of commercial break.  Appears like a moderator goal is to get our folks bickering and Cooper lost control several times as the candidates obliged.  It got snippy and Gingrich would bring the focus back to beating Obama.  It is a considerably different environment in the auditorium rather than watching on TV.  For the candidates and supporters and campaign wonks, we’re already well into 2012.  The excitement generated by the expectations of the campaigns and supporters is obvious (there were a few people in line HOURS before the doors opened), the reaction from the crowd with each ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ response is a felt experience and there were reserved sections for various campaigns so eventually you could tell where each group was sitting (and could predict when and from where a cheer would erupt).  Surrounded by 1000 people, it is less intimate than being at home but that is balanced by being able to watch all the reactions on stage as the event progresses.  The room was physically chilly bordering on way-too-cold.  In one of those small world events – seating was open and I was surrounded by NV activists.  The woman in front of me mentioned that her sister lived in Mililani – turns out to be Mary Smart’s (HRP Platform Cmte) sister.  These are all good Presidential candidates, credible evidence of the deep Republican bench.  Each will lead and manage the country better than Obama.  The debates are important and certainly they help us to better know the candidates.  One thing to remember is, for the most part, only ‘we’ are watching, and not even all of us do so.  As Santorum reminded, a recent poll revealed 50% of Republicans can’t name even one of our candidates.

Then, everyone flows out into the Venetian and Las Vegas.  Ran into a lot of friends from across the nation, RNC and otherwise.  It was interesting bumping into, for instance, the Gingrich’s and then the RNC Co-chair in the hallway (just before I ran into five Elvis impersonators).  Well, what happens in Las Vegas….. is bound to be in tomorrow’s blogs.

Wednesday was a full, packed day.  I was going to attach the agenda but figured you wouldn’t open it.  If you are interested, go to www.Westernrepublican.com.  I couldn’t make all the sessions that I wanted to attend so some comments are based on feedback from others.  Several Hawaii members were there early including Miriam Hellreich, Marcia Klompus, Cindy Sue Clark, Adrienne King, and Jeff and Elizabeth Lyons.  I hoped to, and did, meet the very sharp first-termer ID Rep Raul Labrador.  We started a 1/2 hour off schedule but it got good, fast.  RNC Chair Reince Priebus opened the conference with about 300-350 attendees, media and staffers in the auditorium.  You know from my previous reports that I consider Priebus – “This is a fight to save America” – most responsible for the positive change in the RNC attitude, RNC fundraising, and RNC outreach.  Then in rapid succession, we heard from Presidential candidate TX Gov Rick Perry who was incredibly better ad-libbing from prepared notes – more relaxed, more assertive – compared to his debate performances, then pollster Frank Luntz – “It’s the voter’s, stupid” – who, in a surprise to organizers, gave half his time to otherwise unscheduled Presidential candidate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who chided the liberal media for egging our contenders against each other instead of against Obama (and gently chided our candidates for letting the media do so).  In this setting, the 200 people across the front of the stage are interacting directly with the speakers so it is relatively intimate.  NM Rep Steve Pearce who I had met when briefly campaigning for Gov Martinez in New Mexico, led a Western Region Jobs panel.  The middle of the day was filled with overlapping sessions, usually 30-40 minutes each.  Campaign information such as national polling results (POS), a Western Region townhall meeting, the failed Obama agenda (Bossie of Citizen’s United), voter fraud (Norcross of the Republican Lawyers and John Fund of the WSJ), Early voting (Leadership Institute) and a Building American Prosperity panel.  Training session by GOAPC trainers included candidate recruitment, campaign planning, political operations, asking for money, messaging and communications (20 bullet points with the audience furiously taking notes).  Whew.

All the while, between or during sessions, I’d run into someone from Hawaii, Virginia, or New Mexico campaigns or the national convention or national platform committee or one of the Western Region RNC members.  Campaigning gets to be a small world.  Many RNC members, who I had seen at the Tampa summer meeting a couple months ago are here.  Some friends fit into a couple of those categories.  Steve (DBEDT Deputy Director and HRP Communications Vice Chair) and Joanne (Governor’s staff and longtime HRP HQ manager) Bretschneider, now of Phoenix, are here (and had convinced me to attend).  The exhibit hall is open the entire day with displays, candidate booths and vendors but it isn’t particularly extensive.  Oh, in the background (maybe it was my imagination) is the constant bing, clatter and ding of slots, crap table and roulette wheels.

By the end of day, most people are energized and simultaneously brain dead from all the sessions…. the audience had thinned but increased back to some 200 in the Venetian Showroom for a rousing wake up by Presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain “We can take back the American dream.”  He is good on TV and he is great in person.  The day’s activities wrapped up with Presidential candidate TX Rep Ron Paul giving the closing remarks – “it is absolutely necessary to have a full audit of the Federal Reserve” – with his supporters less numerous (considering they were so strong during the ’08 Nevada process) but they were loud.

Well deserved or, at least, needed was the Welcome Reception at Caesar’s Palace with NV Rep Mark Amodei.  Ample food and drink.  A couple elected officials working the reception.  Demonstrating the depth in some states, I met a Rural Caucus chair from NV, a county Secretary from NM, a WA county committeewoman and a NV county chair among the many others grassroots and RNC members attending.

Tomorrow is another full day beginning early (for Las Vegas).


Aloha, Willes