TAMPA, Fla.—Colorado delegates are enjoying a first-class experience at the Republican National Convention, proving once again that being a battleground state has its perks.
A veritable who’s-who of Republican bigwigs has come to speak to the Coloradans at the Holiday Inn in Clearwater, about 15 miles from Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the convention is being held.
The idea is to ramp up the enthusiasm so that the Colorado delegates head back home newly energized and eager to recruit supporters for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan.
“We’re really luck here in Colorado—we’re a swing state, so we get to meet these people and hear them speak,” said Colorado Republican Party chair Ryan Call.
The 36-member delegation heard Monday from Matt Romney, one of Mitt Romney’s five sons, who shared stories about his family and childhood. On Wednesday, the Coloradans hosted a veritable mini-convention with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, and three Olympic athletes from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
On Thursday, the final day of the convention, two ex-Bush administration officials–former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer–spoke to the Colorado delegates.
Delegate John Carson said his favorite lines came from an Olympian. “One of them said, ‘Our country’s in a ditch. When you’re in a ditch, you don’t rehire the guy who drove you into the ditch,’” said Carson.
The delegates travel to the downtown events by chartered bus in the evenings, allowing them to avoid having to navigate the Beirut-like security detail surrounding the forum and the Tampa Convention Center.
The convention schedule is packed with speakers, but so far the Coloradans say they’ve been most impressed with Ann Romney, wife of the presidential nominee, who spoke Tuesday to the 2,286 Republican delegates.
Lily Nunez, the Colorado committeewoman to the Republican National Committee, said she appreciated how organizers led with a litany of female speakers that night, including Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, before concluding with Ann Romney.
“She was really great. I think it’s great for women because she’s like a lot of us—she’s a mother, a grandmother, she’s had a whole lot of challenges, but she doesn’t complain,” said Nunez. “You can see that her family just adores her—that really came across.”
Delegate Justin Williams said Ann Romney was able to present a side of Mitt Romney that the public rarely sees, such as her description of how the young married couple used a door on cinderblocks as their kitchen table.
“I am rarely moved by a speech, and Ann Romney moved me,” said Williams. “How she talked about her husband, how they met, the struggles she’s been through. They went from having basically nothing to being successful at everything they’ve done.”
Polls show Romney and President Obama running neck-and-neck in Colorado. Mr. Obama spoke Tuesday to a packed crowd at Colorado State University, breaking the unwritten rule in which presidential candidates lay low during their opponents’ conventions.