Update 12:24 p.m. CST - I just got back to the hotel after hearing John McCain's acceptance speech. While I will leave most of the analyzing to the coiffed pundits on Fox and CNN – can you tell how much respect I have for them – I will say this.
Hands down McCain's speech was the best of the week for the GOP. You cannot compare him to Obama because that's like comparing a Chrysler to a Porsche.
Here's how I look at my job. I try to be like John Madden before he lost a few steps and tell you when I see a good political play on the field. I know I'm not the best, I am trying to get better every day, but as long as they are paying me and letting me get away with it, then please indulge so I don't have to cut yards for a living.
OK, back on point. McCain nailed it. He was the best speaker at his convention, just as Obama was at his. They didn't speak to the room, they spoke to the nation. Frankly, if the surrogates at both conventions had done that more over these past two weeks, I think it all would have been a tad bit more inspiring.
I hope you will forgive me, but during these two weeks on the road, it has been quite difficult to hear people say that we need more civility in politics and then take a bulldozer to their opposition's character. Both political parties are guilty, so no finger pointing.
OK. I'm done, I'm tired, and in a few hours, I am going home to hug my wife for the first time in two weeks. I want to provide this type of coverage again, so I hope you have enjoyed it. Many of you have e-mailed words of encouragement that have meant more than you know. It has been fun because you make it fun, let's do it again.
I could say more, but fatigue is kicking in. Thanks and I look forward to seeing you on the road again soon, a bit further down the line.
Update 7:01 p.m. CST - Marsha Blackburn just finished speaking. In her remarks, where she heaped even more praise on Sarah Palin, she served notice to the "good 'ole boys" in the room that the "great new gals will not let them stand in their way any more."
I also just got done having a nice chat with country star Trace Adkins. He informed me that this would be one of the last times he'd be around to show his support for McCain as he will soon head out on a tour that includes USO stops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Though I wasn't surprised to hear it, he also confirmed that he will be voting for McCain.
Nice of him to talk with me.
And now I'm off to find a football game to watch before McCain takes the stage. Just kidding.
Update 5:15 p.m. CST - We have entered the calm before the storm as the convention gears up for its last big hurrah when John McCain accepts the Republican nod later this evening.
Roaming the halls, I have seen politicians like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney giving last-minute interviews. I am told by a member of my party that Henry Kissinger was also spotted not too long ago.
The stage is set for McCain with the balloons packed in the rafters.
I will try to post a quick update immediately following his speech, but regardless, I will be posting a more complete recap this evening before finally signing off from this convention tour of mine.
Update 2:00 p.m. CST - I just got back from a lunch at the Mall of America thrown by Congressman Zach Wamp in honor of former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.
It was kind of funny in that the lunch for Fred was given in Minnesota but a place called The California Café. I did not see any other movie actors in there, but since the meeting was in a mall, I guess it qualifies as “retail politics.”
In his introduction, Wamp played off Thompson's acting credits, saying his mentor has fought to maintain “Law and Order” in this country and is in the “Hunt for a Red November.” He then said that Thompson “transcends American politics.”
When Fred took over the microphone, he called Wamp the “master of the understatement.”
Thompson’s address to the delegates was basically a more laid-back version of the speech he delivered Tuesday night – things like “liberal media is bad” and “Governor Palin is good.” He said that he didn’t want to say that Obama was unqualified to be president, but “you don’t give the keys to a car over to a 14-year-old in heavy traffic.”
He further praised McCain’s choice of a running mate, stating that he had “never been more impressed than he was last night with Sarah Palin.”
In a statement, soon to be posted on her blog, Tennessee GOP chair Robin Smith expanded on the praise of Palin: “Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska rocked the mass of people with her poise, her strength and commitment to principles. All eyes were shifted to the national news boxes at times during her direct address to the 'liberal media.' Cheers, whistles, even tears were all part of the 21st Century's definition of a female candidate running for political office made her remarks. Sarah Palin wowed the crowd, but demonstrates that the next Reagan will be in heels.”
And yes, for those who are wondering, Smith gave me an advanced copy of the statement and permission to go ahead and post that in advance of her blog posting.
Really, the best thing I have seen so far today is the suit worn by conservative blogger Rob Huddleston. Sporting an orange seersucker suit he picked up in Maryville, Huddleston has easily drawn more attention than anyone in the Tennessee delegation today, including Fred.
We are just a few hours away from McCain’s acceptance speech from the convention floor. The RNC has sent out word that it has redesigned the stage to look more like a “town hall” setting with the delegates who nominated him last night serving as the backdrop, if you will.
9:45 a.m. CST - On Aug. 16, 1896 Skookum Jim Mason and his mining party struck gold in the Klondike. While we can’t speak to their exhilaration of discovery, we can place a pretty good bet that it was close to how die-hard Republicans are feeling this morning.
At the combined Tennessee/Alaska delegation breakfast this morning, the lovefest over Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech last night continued.
Congressmen Zach Wamp and Marsha Blackburn heaped praise on Palin, with Blackburn saying that Palin had beaten the “good ole boys” and is now the leader of the “great new gals.”
Blackburn was especially blunt when it came to the leadership she expects Palin to bring to energy issues, saying that, if it was up to her, it would be “drill, baby, drill.”
Last night's theme of attacking Obama’s credentials and the “left-wing media” were still the rule of the morning. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist praised the “quiet” philanthropy and community service of Cindy McCain and held it up to what he called the “all-about-him” history of Obama.
Another trend that continued this morning – it's been a subtle undercurrent gaining momentum all week – is that Republican surrogates speaking of Obama have stopped saying that he “likes the television camera” or “in front of the television camera.” Instead, they now refer to “movie cameras.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey also addressed the group, calling Palin “Reagan in high heels.” He then joked that Congressman Wamp is doing such a good job in Washington, D.C. for the state of Tennessee that Ramsey would do “everything [he could] to help him stay there.”
While the joke didn’t make sense to the Alaskans in the room, every Tennessean laughed nervously: Both Wamp and Ramsey are thought to be seriously considering a 2010 campaign for governor.
This is the final day of the Republican National Convention and of convention season. While I will be posting updates leading up to the speech tonight by Arizona Sen. John McCain, I want to thank a few people here.
Last week, a number of Democrats helped me get to where I needed to go and this week we all got a great assist from some Republicans that made this coverage possible. For that, I’d like to thank Robin Smith, Mark Winslow, Kevin Phillips, Sarah Echols, Carlie Crenshaw, Katie Boyd Britt, Kristen Hayner, Toby Compton and Jeremy Harrell. So much of this week's coverage is due to their valuable assistance.
I will be back later with more.
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- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS