Thirty-two Idaho delegates are in Tampa this week for the Republican National Convention. The list includes some well-known names, like Governor Butch Otter, U.S. Senator Jim Risch and former State Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko. Delegates are hosted at parties and attend special meals put on by interest groups. But it’s not all fun and games. David Adler directs the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State.
Samantha Wright asked Adler about what it means to be selected as a delegate.
A. The idea of rewarding state officials, long-time party supporters, those devoted to the party causes, has been a traditional and significant way of thanking people for supporting the party. It goes without saying that state officials would become part of the delegation, usually headed by the Governor as it is again this year and also a number of people are rewarded because they’ve been supporters of the GOP for many years. For example you have on your list, Dane Watkins of Idaho Falls from Bonneville County, who I think is now attending his sixth or seventh GOP convention.
Q. So it’s an advantage if you’re from Idaho to be able to go to the convention, as you said to rub shoulders with folks, what about Idaho as a state? Does Idaho get any advantage to going to the convention to being represented there?
A. Certainly. Of course all states send delegations. Idaho has a little bit larger delegation than some states this time around. The reality is that states play an ongoing role in the entire nomination process, all the way back to the primaries or the caucuses, the organizational efforts undertaken by party leaders and other organizers, to the selection of delegates. The reality is then once on the floor or through service on committees, for example including the platform committee, there’s a great opportunity for Idahoans to gain some terrific experience, to bring that expertise and acquired experience back to the state of Idaho which they can employ in a variety of ways. So the state is certainly a beneficiary of the practice and experience acquired by our delegates.
Q. What about the convention itself? It’s fun, it’s exciting, you can meet a lot of people. But are conventions anymore, just showpieces, just a way to say rah, rah, rah for my candidate, because we know who the candidate’s going to be?
A. That’s right, there won’t be any surprises. Back in the day we had a good many surprises, there could be floor fights over a number of issues ranging from the selection of the candidate if we had a deadlocked convention to the selection of the vice president. Also for example, the fights over provisions in the platform. So it’s a lot of fun, a lot of parties, but some good work can be done and there’s an opportunity moreover for people to advance themselves in the party. It’s not unusual for the a member of a state delegation to find a job in the Republican hierarchy, to find a position for example in the White House. In the past, for example, I’ve had students who have been delegates to the convention and gone on to win prized internships and land over coveted positions, if not within the GOP, within allied organizations. So it’s an opportunity to create relationships, to spread your resume around, maybe find a new job and move to Washington.
Adler says he doesn’t expect any party platform fights because dissenters are discouraged and the convention is well-scripted to present a unified front.
You can hear special coverage of the Republican National Convention starting tonight at 6 on KBSX 91.5. We will also carry live coverage of the Democratic National Convention next week.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio