ST. PAUL So that is that. The Republicans have named their ticket. The Democrats have named their ticket. The political conventions are over for another four years.
Two months from yesterday, barring another "Florida," we will have elected a new president.
I've spent two weeks straight at first Denver for the DNC and then St. Paul for the RNC, which represents a personal transformation for me since two weeks ago I didn't know what DNC and RNC meant (Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention for the still uninitiated, bless you).
It was by far the longest stretch of political-watching in my lifetime. And I have some observations:
• The cable news networks, especially Fox and MSNBC, should be ashamed, calling what they do journalism. They don't present the news, they slant it. They're as objective as a Chinese gymnastics judge. (I know I should have known this before, but I never paid this much attention.)
• If the conventions decided the election, start referring to Denver as "Mr. President." Denver was Michael Phelps, St. Paul was the rest of the world. Denver's downtown was packed from dawn to dusk, reminiscent of Salt Lake during the Olympics. The weather was perfect, the Democrats were loud and enthusiastic, and celebrities were everywhere.
In St. Paul, the weather was hot and humid and after that it turned cold and rained, the only celebrity sighting was a statue of Charlie Brown, and I failed to ascertain an actual downtown. (Note to Republicans: If you win the White House, DO NOT put whoever chose St. Paul in charge of anything that involves people going to it.)
• If it came down to a gang fight, the winner would be ... the media. There were about 6,000 actual delegates, including alternates, at each convention. There were 15,000 members of the media (counting set-up crews and the guys who get the NBC guys their coffee) at each convention.
• I still have no idea what the delegates do.
• Nothing is spontaneous. All those "Obama" and "Change" and "McCain" and "Country First" signs were printed months ago and handed out at the door, with explicit instructions on when and how to use them.
• You could write the headlines ahead of time: "Biden Wows Crowd" "Palin Wows Crowd" "McCain Speech Hailed" "Obama Speech Hailed." Of course the crowd is going to be wowed. Of course the speech will be hailed. This is because the audience consists only of people who already agree completely with everything that has been said, is being said, or is going to be said. It's like preaching to the choir and the choir is related to you and also owes you money. You cannot give a bad speech. Everything is funny. Everything is interesting. Sarah Palin got a three-minute standing ovation for her speech and that was before she gave it.
• Call me naive, but I was surprised that every morning at both conventions the Utah delegations had their breakfasts paid for by sponsors. These ranged from drug companies to energy companies to all else in between. I found this odd. I thought all that went out with Jack Abramoff.
• Biggest surprise: that the delegations from Utah were so much ... alike. I left Denver for St. Paul thinking the Utah Republicans couldn't possibly be as easy to hang with as the Utah Democrats, and then I got to St. Paul and found the Republicans to be every bit as easy. There are differences. The Democrats have an open bar, the Republicans have an ice cream social. The Republicans are a bit more imperious, the Democrats are a bit more cynical. But at the end of the day, as much as they might not want to hear this, they both put their campaign badges on one lapel at a time. (And just one small bipartisan question: If Republicans want smaller government and Democrats want more government, why were there 29 Democratic delegates and 36 Republican delegates?)
Lee Benson is filing columns daily from the Republican National Convention. You can e-mail him at [email protected]