It was one of the better parties of the 2012 Republican National Convention – a Dixie-themed bash that took over a chunk of Tampa’s football stadium late on Wednesday night, complete with specialty foods and libations for each southern state, and Mike Huckabee turning up on stage to play bass with the cover band.
That it turned out to have been organized by a Wisconsinite was, all things considered, only slightly surprising.
A veteran fundraiser and activist, Phil Prange explained that the Wisconsin delegation – of which he’s a ring-leader – had long known how to have a good time at conventions. So it was suggested by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, himself a Wisconsinite, that its organizers help other states.
For reasons that go well beyond social skills, that delegation really is everywhere at this convention – throwing a “beer and brats” party (oom-pah-pah band included) hours before the football stadium was taken over, hosting convention star Condoleezza Rice at a breakfast the following morning, and generally seeming like the cheeriest people here.
In Republican circles, this is unquestionably the Badger State’s moment in the sun. Mr. Priebus’s role doesn’t hurt. A bigger deal is that Governor Scott Walker made huge headlines for fighting the unions and winning. That native son Paul Ryan is now the party’s vice-presidential nominee – and, by most estimates, the best hope for the GOP’s increasingly right-wing base – puts Wisconsin way, way over the top.
Together, the two youthful politicians – Mr. Ryan is 42, Mr. Walker is 44, and both look could pass for considerably younger – form a sort of tag team that has turned a heretofore politically obscure mid-western state into a sort of Republican mecca.
In years past, Mr. Prange joked, delegates from other states vaguely knew Wisconsin as the place next to Minnesota. Now, they’re excited when they learn he’s from there. (Perhaps that explains why, in one of the convention’s more unusual moments, Mr. Walker burst into tears during Mr. Ryan’s speech accepting his place on the ticket.)
Depending on how well Mr. Ryan holds up to national scrutiny, how long a state without all that much conservative tradition remains supportive of Mr. Walker, and what other new conservative darlings emerge, the infatuation may not last for long. But for now, showing reliably red southern states how it’s done, Wisconsinites can evidently do no wrong among fellow Republicans.