Grover Norquist is the ultimate Republican party guy. The iconic lobbyist’s Americans for Tax Reform has been credited with driving the GOP’s hardline fiscal policy. His Taxpayer Protection Pledge has been blamed for causing the congressional budget standoff. He co-wrote the 1994 Contract With America and serves on the boards of some of the country’s most conservative organizations.
And the Republican National Convention – a quadrennial celebration of capitalism and conservatism – is his home turf.
Norquist has been to every Republican convention since 1984, and he makes the most of the experience, packing each day full of policy events, press appearances, and lots and lots of parties. He shared his Tampa schedule with National Journal, which will spend one day trying to keep up with him.
“It’s a convention, it’s like Vegas,” he said. “You have to work all day, but you can party all night.”
Norquist had planned to host his own party in Tampa: “Break out your bomber jacket and neon leg warmers—the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation is blasting back to the Reagan 80s!” read the invitation, which featured the 40th president as Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future.”
But a desire to avoid looking lavish while the economy is hurting led Norquist to shift gears. Instead, he will hold a special convention edition of his “Wednesday meeting,” the Republican institution he launched in 1993. It will host 30 speakers, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Also on Norquist’s agenda: television and print interviews, plenty of breakfast and lunch events, and then, of course, the parties.
Topping his party list is a bash that will be held at the Tampa Aquarium by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “They have things like bourbon with vanilla flavoring,” he said. “It’s interesting stuff. But it’s more expensive than gold.”
He also wants to get to a pork producers’ Schmooze and Booze. “That sounds promising,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Norquist is a headline guest at GOProud Homocon – a party held by gay conservatives at a venue called The Honey Pot, billed on the invitation as “not your ordinary song and dance.” “HomoCon is great,” Norquist said. “These guys are about, we’re here, we’re marvelous, we’re having a great time.”
But what about that Republican platform stance against gay marriage?
“I do taxes, not social policy,” Norquist said.
After Homocon, it’s off to a celebrity stand-up comedy event, where Norquist will compete for the title of funniest Republican. He was still honing his act just before leaving for Tampa – he described it as a mix of political and family humor. He won’t be making fun of Democrats, though – “That’s too much of a cheap, easy shot for this audience. It’ll be more self-deprecating – it’s about making fun of yourself and your own team.”
There’s plenty more on the menu, but the real question is just how to pack it all in.
“Can I get to four parties in two hours? Yeah – if they’re close to each other and the traffic’s OK. For now, that’s the plan.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article had the incorrect year for the Contract of America. It came out in 1994.