Republican Convention: Leave your handguns at home, but religion, razzamatazz and red white and blue are welcome

It was another world, with keyrings, writes David Usborne


It was a mob scene late on Thursday in one tucked-away corner of the Tampa Times Forum, a glass-and-cement pile that normally hosts ice hockey but which last week was transformed into some sort of spinning spaceship packed with pale-skinned aliens who mean to conquer America, if not quite the Earth. It was not Clint Eastwood's changing room, or even the private box of mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. It was, of course, the gift shop.

The fare was predictable – key rings, mugs and T-shirts – although the hard-shell iPhone covers called casemates (decorated with a grinning running mate) were sort of cute.

I fled before migraine set in and opted instead for a $1 "I was there" badge, sold by a street hawker as I departed the USS Free Enterprise for the last time pulling confetti from my hair and wondering what had just happened. I might even keep it if Mitt Romney wins.

My only thought now about it having been foreshortened for Isaac reasons is, how would any of us have survived if it had been four days instead of three? These things are numbing. They go very late each night to fit with primetime TV and when the nightly benediction has been given we run off to all the parties to schmooze.

And the security! Actually, Mr Secret Service, I can reveal now that you didn't do so great a job. After absconding one afternoon with the British Ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott, for an aerospace reception at the Tampa Aquarium, which lay outside the security perimeter, I got lost returning to the Forum and ended up inside without passing through security once. I could have had a dead penguin in my bag, or even a Smith & Wesson, and no one would have stopped me. Yes, guns were not allowed in the Republican Convention, with or without extra ammunition.

You could bring in God, though, and the more patriotism the better, although the two things tended to get conflated. If the founding fathers wanted to separate church from state they made an exception for the party political conventions. "God Almighty is the source of all we have," Senator Marco Rubio boomed on Thursday night, to tumultuous applause. "Faith in our Creator is the most important American value of them all."

Mr Rubio was only one of many speakers to remind us to feel sorry for anyone who had the misfortune to live in any country that was not America. Mr Obama, he said, had led with "ideas that threaten to make America more like the rest of the world, instead of helping the world become more like America". Can you imagine?

The reassuring news is that they were not very scary, these invaders for Mitt, unless homogeneity scares you. The delegates were definitely more Fleetwood Mac than LL Cool J or even Gaga (white, conservative and straight). They were well behaved props to the television production that every convention necessarily is. They sat through the endless speeches hammering away at the same themes, and the over-produced videos about the candidate's love of wife, Israel and Bain Capital (such a cuddly company, it turns out).

Only a very few could tell you they had actually read the party platform adopted here, with its passages on banning abortion in every circumstance, including rape, and linking the dollar to gold. But they said they liked what they knew about it. "Well, yes, some people in here are very passionate about these things," Carlos Castillo, a delegate from Nebraska, nodded happily. If the whips who patrolled the floor told them to chant "USA! USA!" that is what they did. When they were given home-made signs that weren't home made at all to wave for the cameras, they did that too. "Hispanics for Mitt," said the sign held by Kansas delegate Sue Estes, scrawled in red and white paint but actually printed.

So, yes, "I was there". Mitt might indeed win, but was this a convention for the history books? Perhaps yes, but that might be more thanks to Mr Eastwood than the speeches and videos.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific