It sounded good, anyway. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay would treat House Republicans attending the GOP convention like kings and queens, providing a plush hospitality suite on a Union Pacific train and 24-hour limo service. The train worked like a charm. But it seems the limo plan backfired. Folks tell Whispers that lawmakers not only were treated like royaltythey acted like it. Figured they could keep a car and driver all to themselves instead of sharing. As a result, lots of calls for service to the 150-car motor pool couldn't be met because all the cars were in use.
Pay to play
Being a former congressman isn't all it's cracked up to be. Whispers ran into Bob Livingstona shoe-in for House Speaker until he fessed up about an old extramarital affairwandering around with his wife on the floor of the Republican National Convention wearing a mega Bush-Cheney campaign button. "I had to pay $5 for it," he griped about the colorful pin. "They used to give them to me for free when I was a congressman."
Talks too much
A must-have in Philly is a 464-page compilation of speeches George W. Bush has given since he jumped into the presidential race. But if you think that's a lot of words, get this: The thick, blue paperback used to be longer. "We had to edit it down," says an aide. "We had a fixed budget."
Philly fog machine
Despite what your Democratic buddies may be telling you, that fog you see building every night in the First Union Center isn't the product of blowhards prattling on at the Republican National Convention. It's actually from two fog machines pumping a steamy mix out from behind the two huge TV screens on the stage. Its designed to keep moisture in air sucked dry by bright television lights. As the night goes on, the machines cough up more and more fog, creating a cloudy haze.
Countering 'The Rock'
Conservative media analyst L. Brent Bozell III has a dream TV ad for the Democrats. Every time the Republicans harp on the violence in Hollywood and the Democratic Party's refusal to use its influence to clean up TV, show World Wrestling Federation superstar "The Rock" engaged in his violent style of wrestling. That would be the same wrestler who starred in last night's Republican National Convention performance here in Philly. "The Democrats and the press would have a field day," says Bozell. "When Republicans attack Democrats for being soft on Hollywood violence, the Democrats could say, 'Well, how do you explain The Rock?' "
A nifty new reporter's gizmo that takes off where cell phones leave off is making its debut at the GOP confab: Scribes can use the wireless, pager-size device to E-mail editors from the convention floor, where the noise eliminates any chance of hearing a cellular phone. Some 400 reporters are testing the gadget from Congressional Quarterly, Aether Systems, and Metrocall. Other cool features: a tiny keyboard so that E-mails and even stories can be punched in. Also: CQ has a staff dedicated to answering reporters' questions about key issues. But they've yet to work out all the kinks: A question we sent in went unanswered.
Thanks, but no
His name was on the list of potential Republican vice presidential candidates and now he's being talked about for a prime spot in the Bush administration. But Tennessee's doctor in the Senate, Bill Frist, says he's not interested. During a coffee and cookies sit-down with U.S. News editors and reporters at Philadelphia's primo Pyramid Club, Frist said he's happy where he is and is confident Bush would pick young pros with a "track record" on his pet issueshealth and education.
Sidebar on House races
Sure the focus in Philly is George W. Bush. But there's also lots of buzz about the GOP keeping control of the House. Rep. Tom Davis, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is spending most of his time talking up his gang and raising money. His view: Republicans will remain in charge because Bush is popular, the GOP has approved popular tax cuts, and the party's image has improved since former Speaker Newt Gingrich left the game. "We've always had a good message, but the messenger [was] terrible," he said. He's hoping some GOP women, black and Hispanic candidates will win elections to give the party a new face: "We don't need just a bunch of middle-aged white guys" speaking for the party anymore, he said.
Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee is thinking ahead. Back home, the awshucks guv is angling to get on the Jay Leno Show to tout his new living quartersa triple-wide mobile home while the governor's mansion is being rehabed. Our Suzi Parker reports the time slot he's bucking for: Smack in the middle of the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.
The Republican National Convention is turning out to be a cash cow for political groups. Over the first three days, contributions via the Internet to all types of political organizations has doubled, according to eContributor.com, a leading online fundraising group that works for Republicans and Democrats. Chairman Trey Richardson says the convention has been especially profitable for GOPers like the Christian Coalition and the Republican National Committee: Donations jumped 93 percent for these kind of guys. "In the last week, it's gone boom!" he told Whispers.
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