From the Austin American Statesman:
By Tim Eaton
For most of the past three decades, Texas delegations to the Republican National Convention have enjoyed elite status.
The five election years when George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush was on the ticket as president or vice president offered Texas a certain level of prestige, including prime hotel assignments.
But now, without a Bush to drive the delegation to the toniest and most convenient hotels — as well as prime floor space at the convention — some members of the Texas delegation are feeling a little snubbed.
The Texans have been assigned to a hotel about 25 miles away from the convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said he would have preferred to be across the street from the Forum or, at least, close to the beach.
Instead, the delegation will eat, sleep and meet at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. The resort boasts two 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature courses, 45 tennis courts, a European-style spa and seven restaurants, according to its website.
But for all the niceties, it still is one of the hotels farthest from the convention hall — about as far as the Cedar Park Center is from downtown Austin.
“It makes no sense to us that you would put a delegation which has such a large number of people the second-farthest away from the convention,” Munisteri told the Washington Times. “Other than Florida, I think we’re in the least desirable location, and Florida is being punished for not going by RNC rules, so we’re trying to figure out why we’re being punished.”
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, called it the “Texas cheerleader syndrome,” which he described as the way slighted Texans — who consistently deliver the biggest bloc of Republican electoral votes in presidential elections — act like the Hollywood version of a sideline beauty who cries, “They hate me because I’m beautiful,” Jillson said.
“Anytime Texas doesn’t make the ‘A-List,’ they wonder why people hate them and what could possibly be the cause of that,” Jillson said.
Could it be that party leaders supporting presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are punishing Texas Gov. Rick Perry for challenging Romney in the primary and then, after leaving the race, backing Newt Gingrich?
“It’s not impossible,” Jillson said of that scenario. (Perry has since joined the Romney fold; he endorsed his onetime rival in April and made his first campaign appearance on Romney’s behalf earlier this month.)
James Davis, a spokesman for the Republican National Convention, said the decision to put Texans at the Saddlebrook Resort was part of a complex process of trying to make sure each delegation would be at the same property.
Keeping delegates together is important for meetings, transportation and other logistical reasons.
“This was a huge success on our end,” Davis said.
But Chris Elam, deputy executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, doesn’t see it that way. It’ll be a “massive undertaking,” he said, to shuffle 600 to 700 people by bus back and forth from the hotel to the convention.
Besides the inconvenience, Elam said, he’s worried about safety and people getting separated from the group.
But in the end, Munisteri said the convention-goers — who include delegates, alternates and guests — will make the most of their situation at the faraway resort, which they will share with dozens of Republicans from Louisiana.
“At least we’ll have our Cajun neighbors with us,” Munisteri said.
The Texas delegation will have to wait and see where it will be placed on the floor of the convention hall. Floor positions haven’t been determined yet, Davis said.
It’s also not clear whether any Texans will have a chance to speak at the convention. The schedule is still being worked out.
Most of Texas’ prominent elected Republican officials are expected to attend the event, including Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and most Republican members of Congress.
Notably, neither of the Presidents Bush will attend. George W. Bush of Dallas declined his invitation, saying he is enjoying life after politics. And his father, George H.W. Bush of Houston, declined because of health reasons.
The four-day convention, which will run Aug. 27-30, is expected to draw more than 50,000 people.