Illinois Republicans are headed home after a week in Tampa where Mitt Romney accepted his party's nomination for President. IPR's Amanda Vinicky was with the delegation, and has this report:
The week didn't begin as planned. The threat that tropical storm Isaac would bludgeon Tampa Bay led organize to cancel the first day of the convention. The early forecasts were off, the storm's menace hit hard elsewhere along the Gulf, but it merely brushed by Tampa. Speaking at the final state meeting of the Illinois delegation John Sununu likewise floated the idea that political forecasters would be off with their predictions about President Barack Obama's home state:
"I have an interesting theory that as folks go around this country polling are really missing things. So I'd like to suggest to you that contrary to the general assumption that there's no chance for this Romney/Ryan ticket to win Illinois, I suggest you join me in a little conspiracy here, and let's surprise 'em."
Sununu, the former Governor of New Hampshire, carried on the fantasy:
"Put it this way imagine how satisfying it would be for you folks to wake up on Wednesday after Election Day to say 'holy crap!' did you see what happened in Illinois? You can do it!"
Illinois Republicans who were revved up by the idea were even more so after last night. All evening, speakers with connections to Romney took to the stage. Olympic athletes, business associates, and members of his church, sought to booster the public's image of him, and to tarnish Obama's. Even filmmaker and actor Clint Eastwood got in on the act. But at the end of the night, it was time for Romney to do it for himself. As he strode to the stage, he walked right by Illinois delegates, shaking some of their hands. And then proceeded to make his case. A case that Obama had not fulfilled his promise of hope, and change. But that he, Mitt Romney, could.
"He did great, great. Power to women!"
That's Eloise Gercon, of Chicago, who describes herself as a Hispanic, Jewish, an immigrant.
"He really, it's not a boogie man. The Party has a great team to move forward, really move forward, jobs, gas, the gas prices so high because the poor people are suffering! This was great, it has energize all of us. And some of us that who were on the fence. And hopefully it'll turn around. And hopefully we'll elect Mitt Romney AND Paul Ryan."
Every delegate I spoke had an equally positive reaction about Romney's remarks, though each had different reasons. Delegate Kay Ferris, who's from western Illinois, Whiteside County, says she most appreciated Romney's foreign policies.
"The reaffirmation that we're going to protect our country, make it strong. That was the best."
Romney barbed Obama for giving Russia's president too much flexibility, for not appropriately dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran, and for relaxing sanctions on Cuba. On the domestic front, Urbana mother Karen Miller says she liked what she heard about Romney's commitment to creating jobs. Critics immediately called Romney's plan to create 12 million jobs safe, conservative, that's how many economists believe will be created anyway.
"It hasn't happened in the past, not under the rules we're living in now, it's not going to happen if we continue along the same path."
Speaking of jobs, Delegate Jay Bergman, who's President of the PETCO Petroleum Corporation in Hinsdale, an oil and natural gas producer, was supportive of Romney's plans to make North American energy independent by 2020.
"That's something that's a big thing, it'll create jobs, it'll reduce our dependency on the Saudi' and others for whom we now are giving all of our money to buy their oil."
His wife, Lori, says it exceeded her every expectation:
"This is our next president in witnessing history"
Lori stood waist-deep in red, white and blue balloons that had poured down from the ceiling. It was an impressive display, but there were so many that in order to leave the arena, delegates took to using their Romney campaign buttons and pins to pop them. Republicans are pumped with excitement now, but November's a long way off. And their metaphorical balloons could burst well before then. Even as early as next week, when Obama makes his case to the public, at the Democratic National convention in Charlotte.
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