Monday, June 04, 2007
2007 Tennessee Republican Party Statesmen's Dinner
First of all, I want to sincerely thank everyone who made our attendance at the dinner possible. In particular, Senator Lamar Alexander made us feel right at home as our gracious host, and he even answered all of our questions throughout dinner. As always, Tennessee GOP Chairman Bob Davis, Vice-Chairwoman Robin Smith, and the rest of the staff coordinated a fantastic event.
Here are a few random thoughts of the night:
- I swear that I saw Al Gore playing with the thermostat at Gaylord and muttering something like "Here's your global warming..." It was hot as blazes at points of Saturday night, and anyone who knows how this Southern boy sweats...
- An excellent steak and desert was served, although the salad left much to be desired. My Jumbo Jack from Jack in the Box on the midnight trip back to Knoxville was also delicious.
- For an off year on the election cycle, attendance was remarkable. Being seated with Lamar at the center of the room (seriously, I don't think I have enjoyed seats this good since a dinner for Bob Dole back in 1996), it was hard to tell how many people were there. I would guess 1,000, but that's purely a guess.
- Lamar did speak to us about his campaign. I have yet to parse through the DVD he provided regarding the direction of the campaign, but he was fired up about keeping his seat in the Senate. He also mentioned that Ed Bryant was going to be an integral part of his campaign team, which shows how things have changed since the last time Lamar ran. That irony wasn't lost on me throughout the night. Here I was sitting with Lamar, who I campaigned against in the 2002 primary, fighting for my boss (at the time) and good friend Ed Bryant, who was sitting a couple of tables to my right. I have since campaigned for Lamar and, if it hadn't been for his assistance, I wouldn't have been in Nashville on Saturday night.
Regarding some of the speeches:
- Congressman David Davis spoke mostly about God. It struck me as a short speech that would have gone over better at a 1st District Lincoln Day, but it probably didn't receive the response that David was looking for at the statewide dinner.
- Jimmy Duncan, III, spoke for his father, who was at a prior speaking engagement in Florida at the time. He delivered a good line ("I have one thing in common with Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Naifeh - I shouldn't be the speaker for much longer"), but the biggest thing to come of JD III's appearance was more fodder for the rumors that the current congressman from the 2nd District is prepping his son to take his place soon. Several operatives I spoke to Saturday night mentioned the words "aristocracy," "birth right," and "ascending to the family throne" regarding such a maneuver. We shall see.
- Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn delivered a videotaped address where she spoke of a debate challenge against Al Gore on global warming at the Bristol night race in August. Yeah, I was shaking my head at that one, too...
- Congressman Zach Wamp gave one of his typical Southern Baptist preacher speeches that is so successful at firing up the troops. He asked that we do not apologize to the world for our country, that we are hated because we do respect other viewpoints, that it is vital that we have the courage to overcome our own fears, and that we can best serve our party by serving our party first. It was short, sweet, and only contained a few jabs at Governor Romney.
- Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey received a long standing ovation, and it is clear that his star is still on the rise in Tennessee Republican politics. He declared that the state of the party is alive and well.
- TN GOP Chairman Bob Davis reiterated his call (and one that I have voiced to D.C., as well) that the national Republican Party needs to learn from Tennessee Republicans so that it can start connecting with voters in the majority of U.S. states where it lost ground in 2006.
- Mitt Romney gave a very timely speech. With Fred Thompson's picture having appeared on the large screens set up for the presentation of the 2007 Statesmen from each district at least a dozen times, several people wearing "FDT 2008" buttons in the audience, and the discussion of Fred Thompson having dominated the conversation all night, Romney knew that a campaign "stump speech" would not have been received well. Therefore, he delivered an issues-themed speech defused with several jokes and off-the-cuff stories as a lead in. As per norm with Romney, it was a good speech (although not close to his performance at SRLC in Memphis last March). He spoke of how businesses in the private sector have to improve or vanish, while the public sector doesn't have such motivations. The theme of improvement was a common thread through the address, as he quoted his father, saying "There is nothing more vulnerable than entrenched success."
That's all for now. I have more to say on the night and how much I enjoyed the evening - along with many pictures - but I will have to post them this afternoon.