In one corner, Utah Senator Mike Lee was trying out one of those combination workstation-treadmills that allows you to type on your laptop while getting your exercise. Nearby, a bowtie-wearing barista was preparing to serve lattes. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, getting a tour of a room that looked vaguely like it had been lifted from a Portlandia sketch, gazed on approvingly.
With the start of the GOP's gathering effectively delayed a day by a tropical storm, the Google lounge in Tampa's convention centre was one of the few forms of officially sanctioned entertainment for politicians, delegates and media at loose ends. And if nothing else, it served as a reminder for those of us covering the Republicans for the first time not to fall prey to all the usual red-state stereotypes.
One floor up, an expansive array of talk-radio types did their best to fill the airwaves with what appeared to be a rotating cast of conservative pundits. This, it seemed, fit the profile a little better - nowhere more so than a small booth identifying itself as "NRA Radio," and distributing flyers for "Defending Our Defenders," billed as a "high-energy tribute to the men and women of the United States military" to be presented Tuesday afternoon by "Veterans for a Strong America, Special Operations for America and the Special Operations Education Fund in conjunction with Tea Party Patriots."
The gentleman who offered the flyer turned out to be the host of "Cam and Company," a late-night satellite-radio show, as well as a producer and reporter for the NRA's Internet station. He explained that NRA's programming is mostly "second amendment stuff," with a little conservative politics thrown in. As for how they're covering a four-day convention with what seems a rather narrow mandate - most of NRA Radio's listeners just really, really want Barack Obama gone, so Cam and his colleagues are focusing on asking Republicans how they're going to achieve that.
Setting aside his easygoing (and slightly bemused) manner, this all seemed a little more predictable than what was happening in the Google lounge. Unfortunately, it turned out that Cam wasn't willing to play completely to type either - professing, upon learning that he was speaking to a Canadian journalist, that he's a big fan of Peter Mansbridge. (We didn't get to discuss why that was, exactly, because he had to interview John Sununu.)
Back in the hallway downstairs, a different and more poignant moment seemed similarly to be playing out as one might expect, until it wasn't.
In the midst of chatting amiably with journalists and conservative bloggers, Mr. Priebus was approached by a young woman - a Republican who wanted to talk (from what we could hear) about a family member who had died in combat, and why his fate made her believe in the party even more strongly.
This would have been an easy moment to exploit, and for a moment it seemed Mr. Priebus would indeed carry out a conversation with her for the cameras. Instead, appearing to grasp what this was like for her, he excused the two of them so they could go talk in private.
None of this is extraordinary; perhaps it shouldn't even be remarkable. But over the next few days, it will be easy to be snide about some of the cruder theatrics that will be on display in Tampa. So it seems worth noting, at the outset, that these people are not all the cartoon characters they can easily be made out to be.Report Typo/Error