By the grace of Tropical Storm Isaac, the quadrennial Republican National Convention starts today, 24-hours late – the only damage being to Donald Trump's ego, as the delay cost him a keynote speech. It is an "event" in the way our own annual party conferences seldom are – although the candidate is long-since elected. This is Mitt Romney's coronation.
I've never been more aware of the potency of a crowd than when, living in New York, I covered the 2004 RNC at Madison Square Garden. Each day speakers rallied the faithful into waving their arms aloft in rhythmic unison as they chanted "flip-flop, flip-flop" at Democrat John Kerry's alleged policy vacillations.
Just three years after 9/11, the choice of Manhattan was calculated. Keynote speakers included: "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani, who back then appeared to be the favourite for the 2008 GOP nomination; Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Governor of California, who had the entire Garden chanting "Arnie! Arnie!"; Dick Cheney, the Veep, whose speech was the most chillingly menacing I have ever heard; and Dubya himself, folksier than the above, but no orator. The 2012 running mate Paul Ryan spoke, but I don't remember him.
It was the stuff that surrounded it that made the RNC so unforgettable to my British sensibility. And I don't mean the 1,800 arrests outside. It was meeting the Kings, CNN's Larry and boxing's Don, and all those egos, the botox, the bling, the ex-athletes and Miss USAs. It was razzmatazz made flesh. There was – Cheney aside – precious little politics. It was pure showbiz, mesmerising, thrilling and scary.Follow @stefanohat Reuse content