Tampa trend: Crashing the other party’s convention could become the norm

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus (By Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus (By Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

By Matt McNab

Capital News Service

TAMPA, Fla. – Several prominent Democrats, led by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, made unexpected appearances in Tampa this week, prompting Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to respond that Republicans aren’t fazed.

“They can do what they want, but whatever they do we can do 10 times over,” Priebus said Thursday. “What goes around comes around.”

Led by two Maryland politicians — O’Malley and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Montgomery — a contingent of Democrats have slammed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Tampa. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, also made an appearance at the convention Thursday.

Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to be here earlier in the week, but cancelled because of Hurricane Isaac.

Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College, said the 24-hour news cycle and the current, closely contested presidential race have contributed to the decision to show up at the normally off-limits conventions.

Parties can’t cede time or message

“The parties have decided they can’t cede any time to one another,” he said. “It’s going to continue to escalate as time goes by. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the conventions happening over the same four days, so that they can instantly refute any claims the other party makes.”

Eberly pointed to one example from the last election cycle.

“Barack Obama accepting the Democratic presidential nomination was a huge speech and was going to provide a big boost,” he said. “The day after, John McCain announced his running mate and stepped all over any bump or poll increase Obama got.”

Maryland Republican delegates quickly put together a press conference Tuesday to criticize O’Malley’s appearance the same day, but were surprised to hear of Van Hollen’s Wednesday trip to Tampa.

Harford County Executive David Craig (By Aberdeen Proving Ground)

Harford County Executive David Craig (By Aberdeen Proving Ground)

No more convention courtesy

Harford County Executive David Craig said the Democrats’ appearance around Tampa would mean a Republican surrogate in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention next week.

“I find it interesting, because there’s supposedly been a protocol or a courtesy in the past, that when one party had their convention, the other party just sort of took the week off,” he said. “But they’re not doing that, so if we did that next week, which we may do, they’re going to get angry with us and say, ‘wait a minute, you shouldn’t be doing that.’

“But they’re the ones that are starting it. If that’s the way they’re going to be, it’s going to be that way from now on.”

University of Richmond political scientist Daniel Palazzolo said more of a presence by the opposing party at future conventions could become the new norm.

“They are not going to handle it in the traditional, hands off style,” he said. “In this polarized, partisan political environment, with such a narrow margin involved, I’m not surprised.”


About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. abby_adams

    I’d much rather give O’Malley & the smug Democrats a message at the ballot box, especially on the referendum issues. You work for us. We hired you. We can fire you. Too bad we have to wait until 2014 to send that message to Annapolis.

    • Dale McNamee

      We need a majority of Maryland voters to say : “We hired you. We can fire you” & back it up with action… With the current electorate, I’m not hopeful…

  2. Hank Staniszewski

    At least when O’Malley is away he’s not raising taxes.