Iowa GOPers meet for first time in Twin Cities

The Iowa delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul gathered this morning in their hotel in Bloomington for a little stand-up. Stand-up breakfast, that is. There were 15 tables set up for nibbling on breakfast items while standing around the table top.  There were only 5 tables at the appropriate height for eating breakfast while seated. [We’ve posted some photos at the end of this post, after the jump.]

While the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party served as the emcee for the morning breakfasts for the Iowa delegation at the DNC in Denver, Stewart Iverson — the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa — did not speak this morning.  This morning’s meeting was led by two other men: Steve Scheffler and Dave Roederer.  Scheffler, head of the Iowa Christian Alliance/Republican National Committeeman-elect, is the chair of the Iowa delegation at this convention and Roederer, chairman of McCain’s campaign in Iowa.

Twins250 As I chatted with delegates before the meeting started, I learned a small cohort of Cedar Rapidians found themselves in the midst of a Seinfeld episode last night.  When they emerged from the downtown Minneaspolis party for convention delegates, they spent the next hour and a half looking for their vehicle in a parking garage. 

Two things:  apparently parking garages do not have restrooms and shoes are optional after the first 15 minutes if you’re wearing high heels.  If you want details, contact the Hendersons of Cedar Rapids — Sarah and Todd.  No, we are not related.  Katie Farrand, another delegate from Cedar Rapids, was in on this, too.  Roger Hughes is/was the owner of the vehicle that was the subject of said search.  In the picture, you see Sarah — on the left — and Katie reviewing snaps chronicalling their parking garage experience.  (Katie & Sarah were Linn-Mar classmates, by the way.)

Whereas Iowa Democrats opened their morning meetings in Denver by saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Iowa Republicans in Bloomington began their meeting with a prayer.  "…We thank you for lifting up Sarah Palin, We’re so thrilled to know that a woman who’s committed discipline of yours is approaching important office.  Thank you for the excitement that is there," delegate Morris Hurd said as he led the group in prayer.

Scheffler, as he made opening remarks to the Iowans, urged them to put on their best front.  "A year ago, I’m not sure that I would have said that we’d come to this convention…energized and I think it’s fair to say that even before the choice for vice president was made known that at least I and I think a lot of you probably saw the change in attitude as people started to get on board because they understand that just about two months out there’s a lot at stake…Now that we’re coming down to the crunch time and we’ve got a candidate that we can agree with about 90 percent of the time, as opposed to somebody who’s zero percent of the time and who’s dangerous to the security of this country and in terms of any kind of public policy, we have to get people engaged.  The picking of our judges in the Supreme Court is, in my view, one of those big issues as also as winning the war on terror."

Scheffler called Palin his "number one choice" about a month ago.  "It doesn’t hurt that she’s a woman," Scheffler said.  "…She’s articulate.  She’s sharp.  She passes every test with the Republican base I think is exactly what’s needed to get our people excited….At this point, I could walk on broken glass to get this team elected."

Rioederer was up next and quickly introduced former Wisconsin Governor/former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to the crowd.  Thompson revealed he’s had a few spots of skin removed from his nose and face due to skin cancer concerns.  He also joked about his campaigning in Iowa.  As you may recall, Thompson was one of the folks who ran for president this cycle.  He dropped out after a disappointing finish in the Iowa GOP Straw Poll.

Thompson told some stories about his crusade against smokers in the HHS when he was the agency’s secretary.  Roederer quipped, after Thompson finished:  "The smoking break has been cancelled."

Roederer spent some time explaining there really is no "good game plan" for what will occur and who will speak when for the rest of the convention.  He also coached the Iowans on what to say when delegates from other states approach to complain about Iowa’s Caucuses.  (As you know other states, Michigan and Florida in particular, covet the lead-off role Iowa now has in the presidential selection process.)

Roederer advised the Iowa Republicans to say thank you to any Minnesotan they encounter, as the state and cities have been planning for this convention for years.  "This is probably is not a good time for the Iowa//Minneasota jokes," Roederer said.  Like the one about the message printed on the inside of shoes in Minnesota?  (Answer:  "Insert foot.")  Yes, apparently, don’t tell that one.

(UPDATE:  I forgot to add this earlier.  Roederer also advised the delegates they will be "on" when they’re on the convention floor.  "There are more television cameras at this convention than I’ve ever seen before, so if you’re thinking of picking your nose, don’t think that that won’t be caught on camera," Roederer said.  "You can do as you wish, but you just need to know that there is no angle that won’t be covered by a camera.")

At the end of this morning’s session (which by the way ran under the two hours reserved!) Roederer and Scheffler were fielding questions from the delegates about convention details, like when the shuttle buses would be running from the hotel to the convention site.  There was a four minute discussion and then an authoritative voice from floor seemed to have the final word on shuttle bus schedules.

"And that’s the way it will be until they change it," Roederer added.  I think I was the only one in the room to laugh out loud.

A final word — about the lectern rustled up for the Iowa delegation’s use.  This is not the lectern’s first rodeo.  It looks like it’s been through a few wars; perhaps it was used at the very first Republican convention in 1860.  I’ll see if I can snap a picture of it tomorrow.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.