ST. PAUL - National political conventions are a political junkie's dream, but that never stopped political reporters from finding items to grouse about.
The litany of complaints included not being able to receive a definitive convention schedule, closed food stands that made it necessary to hike about a half-mile for a sandwich on the first day and the confiscation of umbrellas on a rainy day.
Still, most any political reporter would admit that getting a chance to cover a political convention is as exciting as covering a World Series or Super Bowl would be to a sports reporter. It's no exaggeration to say that eyes of the world are on this convention as it formally nominates Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin for president and vice president.
This week, St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center is Ground Zero for American politics. One doesn't have to be Republican to sense the emotion and excitement of these political activists. That emotion was pent up on Monday with a curtailed speaking schedule and a subdued mood caused by concern about Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Tuesday, however former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who is almost better known for his role on "Law and Order," and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut fired up the crowd with traditional, crowd-pleasing rhetoric. The crowd was ready to make noise and they unleashed a tremendous amount of energy as they waved placards and danced during musical interludes.
Particularly heartwarming was the loud ovation the crowd gave former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Heartfelt applause was also generated whenever a picture of the late President Ronald Reagan appeared on the big screen.
What makes a political convention exciting for reporters is that they are surrounded by big name politicians, big name journalists, random celebrities and ordinary people who are passionate about the political system. The politicians, for the most part are freed from their media handlers and can be talked into an interview just by tapping them on the shoulder as they're walking along the convention center concourse. The office-holders stick to their talking points for the most part but there's always the chance they might let slip a memorable quote in an impromptu interview.
On Wednesday morning two talk show radio hosts from Boston's WTKK (96.9) exemplified the sometimes hidden enthusiasm that most reporters probably feel while covering a big news event.
Jim Braude, a liberal talk show host, greeted Michael Graham, his conservative counterpart at the Boston station, as Graham was walking to his interview booth on Radio Row.
"How are you doing?" Braude inquired.
Graham burst into a wide grin and threw his arms up in the air as he responded.
"How am I doing?" he replied. "I've got (U.S. Rep.) Barney Frank and Nazi sympathizers."
For a political reporter life doesn't get much better than that.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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