Thursday, August 03, 2000

PULFER: Shooting stars


GOP short on celebrities, long on food

By LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rumors have been flying all week. “Georgia had Travis Tritt,” an Ohio delegate said wistfully. Michael J. Fox is appearing at a dinner. General Motors brought Hank Williams Jr. to town. House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts sang “My Girl” with the Temptations. A sock hop starring the Four Tops, the Shirelles and Bobby Vee.

        Meanwhile Bob the lounge lizard was appearing nightly at my hotel.

        More than 1,000 events - some exclusive, some open to delegates and press - have been planned. Corporations will spend an estimated $20 million, according to the Chamber of Commerce. The 16,000 members of the press here might complain that there's not much in the way of news, but there is plenty of food. Most sponsors are generous about letting us tag along to receptions and the meals planned for the delegates, beginning at 8 a.m. every day and lasting well into the following morning.

        “We'll be handing out complimentary Visine,” joked Ohio Party Chairman Bob Bennett one morning. Ohio is a fair-haired state at this convention. There early and often for Gov. Bush, Ohio not only has an upfront position at the convention hall and but a convenient downtown hotel. The delegation has been treated to party luminaries such as foreign policy adviser Condoleezza Rice and Christine Todd Whitman at what might have been routine breakfasts.

        But, of course, this has not gone to our heads. Ohio has not forgotten its nice midwestern roots.

        Lunch on Tuesdaywas a faux county fair. “Dunk for apples and get a belly full of fun” the invitation promised. Mercifully, nobody made us do either. I won a red, white and blue plastic headband when I finally managed to puncture a balloon with a dart. I first punctured a very nice young man. Lunch was chicken and apple pie.

        And I couldn't help wondering what the A-list people were doing.

        Finally, I whined to Jane Portman, wife of 2nd District Congressman Rob Portman. If anybody at this convention is A-list, it's the Portmans. When they were in Cincinnati last Sunday, the Bushes attended church in Hyde Park with the Portmans. A lot of people believe Rob Portman will be tapped for a big job in a Bush administration. And as icing on the cake, they are simply very nice, very attractive people. A-plus-list.

        They took me with them to the Republican National Committee Convention 2000 Gala. Cincinnati's Robert Castellini and William O. DeWitt Jr. were among sponsors of the event, which raised $10.1 million. Gov. and Laura Bush were there, along with Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Ridge, who told Mr. Portman, “Our outreach has to be consistent, persistent. We have to translate this into programs that will really help people.”

        No Motown. But the Philadelphia Boy's Choir was terrific. And the candidate's brother, Jeb, did a pretty funny Top Ten Reasons My Brother Should Be President. (No. 1: There definitely will be a controlling legal authority - Barbara Bush.)

        Tennessee's Fred Thompson rushed by, perhaps on his way to make a movie of the week. The Mayor of Indianapolis. Rep. Henry Hyde. Senators. Contributors. This was the real deal. At last, I would find out how the other half lives. Caviar? Perhaps a nice Chilean sea bass awash in something wonderful. We sat down at a table with former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, ”My mentor,” Mr. Portman said.

        Lunch was served.

        Chicken and mashed potatoes. With pastry for desert. It was swimming in something fancy. With a couple of blueberries on the side. I took a bite.

        Apple pie.

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Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

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