The formal business that happens on a convention floor—nominating a candidate, approving a platform, tweaking party rules—is mostly a formality these days. But in hotel-conference centers around Tampa, a different kind of business takes place as party officials check in with colleagues from across the country on races that will determine who controls Congress.
For delegates, conventions are a week of raucous parties, inspiring speeches, and late nights. But for party officials plotting election strategy, conventions are far from a booze-filled vacation.
“This is our industry’s once-every-four-years gathering, where everybody’s in the same place at the same time,” said Mike Shields, political director at the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Because everybody’s here, if you’re sitting in your office in D.C., it’s very difficult to get somebody on the phone.”
NRCC has about two dozen staffers in Tampa this week. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has top political, communications, and fundraising staff in town; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas held a fundraiser for donors on Tuesday morning. NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., held a briefing for reporters on Monday, and a handful of incumbents will hold fundraisers around the convention.
At least 34 fundraisers are scheduled for candidates and party committees in Tampa, according to invitations compiled by the Sunlight Foundation. The Democratic Senate and House campaign committees are sending staff to Charlotte, too. Dozens of fundraisers are likely during the convention.
Other staffers help candidates and members raise their profiles or fix their campaigns. An NRCC booker is trolling radio row, where conservative talk radio hosts are looking for guests. Shields has brought his regional political directors to Tampa to meet with state party leaders.
“What opportunity are you going to get to sit down with six or seven delegations?” Shields said. “It really speeds up the exchange of information face-to-face.”