Grace Wyler / Business Insider
TAMPA, FLA. — While political conventions are designed to unite a party and build momentum going into the general election, some delegates here in Tampa are a little disappointed with how the 2012 GOP convention has turned out. One such delegate is George Engelbach, an Abraham Lincoln fan from Jefferson County, Mo., who dressed up like the 16th president for the first day of the convention.
I ran into Engelbach Monday night on the deck of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where he was getting some air after spending several hours on the floor.
This year’s convention is a little bit of a let-down, Engelbach said, noting that this is the fourth consecutive convention he has attended.
“I’ve been involved in the Republican Party for a long-time,” he told me. “And I can tell you, things are a little different this year. For example, at other conventions, usually they have two venues as big as this one, and one of them is just filled with vendors selling all sorts of things. But at this one, there are hardly any vendors at all. There’s just the one venue.”
The other surprising difference this year has been the change in schedule, Engelbach said, referring to the convention committee’s decision to move the state roll call and the nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to the afternoon of the first day of the convention. In the past, the roll call and the nominations — the entire reason for the convention in the first place — are held during primetime on the last two nights of the convention.
“So I guess we can all go home now,” Engelbach said, laughing.
Engelbach, who describes himself as pro-life “through and through and through,” is also frustrated with the party’s treatment of his state’s U.S. Senate candidate, Todd Akin, who Engelbach describes as “just an incredible individual.”
“He made a mistake, and he’s asked for forgiveness,” Engelbach said. “If they put as much effort into helping save his campaign as they have put into attacking him, he would win the race, no doubt.”
For Engelbach, the convention caps off what he describes as a roller-coaster primary season. After originally supporting Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries, Engelbach said he voted for Rick Santorum when Gingrich did not make it on to the ballot in Missouri. Then, during his state’s county conventions, Jefferson County was the site of a major battle between longtime party stalwarts, like Engelbach, and supporters of Ron Paul, who teamed up with “the Tea Party people” to push through a slate of delegates.
“That was a very laborious day,” Engelbach told me. “But in the end, we outmaneuvered them.”
Since then, Engelbach has been frustrated by the Romney organisation in Jefferson County, which he suspects he is run by a Paul supporter who isn’t doing much to reach out to the party organisation in the county.
Still, Engelbach said he is happy with Mitt Romney as the party’s presidential nominee.
“I like him fine,” he said. “Even a piece of driftwood from the Mississippi River would be better than the guy we have up there right now.”
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