My final day--Thursday, August 30--in Tampa proved especially exciting with the nomination acceptance speech by Gov Mitt Romney closing out the Republican National Convention.
The day began with the Illinois delegation's final breakfast and we were fortunate to hear from Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka who discussed Illinois' recent downgrade and the serious fiscal problems the State of Illinois continues to face. Comptroller Topinka hosted a party for the delegation at our hotel in Clearwater following Wednesday evening's convention activities. Our delegation's special guest for the morning was former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (and also former Chief of Staff to President George H.W. Bush) who spoke on behalf of the Romney campaign (Gov Sununu is a very active surrogate for the Romney-Ryan campaign) and challenged our group to push as hard as we can in Illinois for Republican votes. Congressman Robert Dold (R-IL-10) also joined the delegation for the last day of the convention (scheduled activities kept Rep. Dold in Illinois until Thursday) and addressed our group.
As expected, arriving at the Times Forum (site of the convention) on Thursday was a slightly different experience that the three preceding days. Security lines are longer, (yes, there were a few more protesters), more people everywhere, and by the time Gov Romney spoke, every seat was filled. Rumors had circulated all day among the delegates that the "special guest" of the evening was Actor/Director Clint Eastwood, and that proved true. The crowd in the convention hall responded very well to Eastwood, and although he took some creative liberty, had a very strong message that resonated. I will not forget Eastwood's line, "Politicians are our employees".
As Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was finishing up his remarks and introduction of Gov. Romney, some changes near our delegation seating area were noticeable. The aisle next to our delegate seating was cleared and a heavy secret service presence began filing in... As luck would have it, Gov Romney walked directly by the Illinois delegation (and Wisconsin and Virginia) on his way to the stage to deliver his remarks. The energy during Gov. Romney's acceptance remarks was the most intense of the entire week.
After Romney's speech and the traditional gathering of the candidate's family and the candidate's running mate and his family on the stage, the balloon drop (also traditional) was especially noteworthy this year. There were exponentially more balloons than I think anyone in the hall was expecting, and as the crowd dispersed, we were all essentially wading in a sea of balloons.
There was definitely a lot of energy as we closed out the convention and I look forward to seeing the campaign progress in the next two months.