My point is to encourage anyone covering their first convention to be creative when it comes to defining what is news and what is worth their time to pursue. An obscure pollster handling a House race in Ohio, for example, may offer a more honest perspective about how the presidential race is playing in that swing state than a senior strategist on either the Romney or Obama payrolls. Like selling real estate (yes, it all comes back to George Babbitt), political reporting depends on relationships. And there is no place better than a convention to begin to forge these bonds of mutual trust.
At a time like this, I find myself reminiscing about another long-ago Florida GOP convention, my first as a reporter. Covering the 1968 Republicans in Miami Beach for The Michigan Daily, my college paper, I recall interviewing the youngest delegate, who was supporting perennial loser Harold Stassen who opposed the Vietnam War. I still recall with embarrassment the lede for my column the next morning, “As I walked down the hotel corridor and knocked on the door, I didn’t know what to expect.”
Forty-four years later, I pretty much do know what to expect. And that is why I’m heading to Tampa with a sense of curiosity, anticipation and, yes, a stubborn case of journalistic butterflies.