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Role-Playing in Tampa


More drive-by than Occupy: A planned demonstration on Monday drew hundreds, not thousands, of Occupy Wall Street-affiliated protesters.(Chet Susslin)


Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will reprise his role of President Obama in debate practice with soon-to-be Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Portman, who was on Romney’s short list of potential running mates, has long been a favorite of Republican strategists and candidates for his ability to effectively morph into Democrats in rehearsal after he studies hours of videotape and briefing materials. He played Al Gore for George W. Bush, John Edwards for Dick Cheney, and Obama for John


Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will play Romney in Obama’s debate prep. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a frequent political foe of Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, will reportedly play him in debate prep for Vice President Joe Biden.

It is still a mystery who will play Biden for Ryan but in 2008, the role was assumed by Sarah Palin’s foreign-policy adviser Randy Scheunemann.


Convention-goers have been abuzz with rumors that actress Anne Hathaway (most recently, Catwoman to Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight Rises) is attending the GOP festivities. Her name is linked to high-level Republican events—such as Sunday’s “Off the Record” reception, hosted by “Anne Hathaway and the Romney Campaign,” according to the invite. No surprise that the party was packed—but no actress. The event featured a different, and in some GOP circles even more famous, Anne Hathaway: the Indiana strategist and former Republican National Committee chief of staff who is overseeing the entire convention’s program lineup. The identity mix-up isn’t uncommon, said Hathaway convention colleague Jim Dyke. “They’re both beautiful on the inside and on the outside,
and they’re both at the top of their fields. She gets a chuckle out of it. I’ve been trying to persuade her to dress up as Catwoman for Halloween.”



Among the B-list celebrities expected in Tampa this week is infamous state-dinner rasher Michaele Salahi. The former Real Housewives of D.C. cast member has separated from her husband and fellow White House party-crasher Tareq, and is now dating Journey guitarist Neal Schon. Salahi will reportedly be on hand for Journey’s convention-closing night gig on Thursday.


Our favorite convention collector’s item so far: copies of The Cat and the Mitt, a hardcover book styled after Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat authored by self-described “free-market warrior” Loren Spivack (aka “Dr. Truth” on the cover). The cover features President Obama as the titular cat, wearing a Russian fur hat with a hammer and sickle. The original story’s indignant fish has the head of Mitt Romney in this version. The story mimics the classic’s plot: The reckless (but lovable) cat wreaks havoc, while the responsible (but uptight) fish tries desperately to restore order. Among the cat’s crazy ideas are the auto bailout (“Let’s be clear,” said the cat./“I know just what to do./I’ll take over GM,/And then Chrysler too!”); the stimulus and the increasing deficit (“We can stimulate everyone,/If only you let,/With a game that I call/Up-Up-Up with the debt!”); and the health care law (“Of course, it might mean/That Grandma must go/Our friendly ‘Death Panel’/Will be letting you know.”) Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid make cameos as the red-unitard-clad “Dem One” and “Dem Two.” The relatively steep $20 price tag is a fair, free-market price, Spivack assures: “No government subsidies went into this.”


Republicans are lousy tippers. That’s the consensus among Tampa cab drivers. One cabbie, who would identify himself only as “Rod, the cab driver,” said he polled drivers at a downtown cab stand where many patrons were shuttling between two hotels on either side of the convention center. The ride costs about $4. “Everyone wants their dollar back,” Rod said. One of Rod’s customers asked if he would take $7 for a $7.90 fare. “I said no. But I made sure they got their dime back.”


In the end, the massive roar of discontent that was supposed to be on display outside the Republican National Convention on its opening day ended up being little more than a whimper outside of an empty convention hall. Whether because of the dreary, drizzly weather or the massive security presence in downtown Tampa—about 4,000 officers are expected to be on hand throughout the week—only a few hundred protesters showed up for the “March on the RNC,” a demonstration planned by local Occupy groups and their allies to march from a Tampa park to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Organizers, nevertheless, shaded history their own way—a release boasted: “Over a thousand rally in face of storm.”



Coral Davenport, Fawn Johnson, Sarah Huisenga, Naureen Khan, and Rebecca Kaplan contributed contributed to this article.

This article appears in the August 28, 2012 edition of NJ Convention Daily.

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