This post has been updated.
TAMPA — It’s 6:30 p.m. on the final night of the Republican National Convention, and the Politico Hub is practically empty. On the ninth floor of a circular office tower in downtown Tampa, the Politico Hub is Politico’s home base in Tampa, with free food, liquor, and Coca-Cola products on offer for those with the foresight to register on Politico’s website, or the luck to arrive when the registration table’s Internet is down and they can’t tell whether you registered or not. There are about 50 people there: eating, drinking, and talking quietly. Four younger attendees hover near a table containing bowls of Odwalla energy bars. “I’m gonna put so many of these in my bag before I go,” one promises. It’s a good plan.
Politico reporters have been conducting “Politico Newsmaker Interviews” in the Hub all week and, I think, livestreaming those interviews on Politico’s website. The last time I was there, two days ago, Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin were interviewing Tagg Romney, Mitt’s oldest son. (Presumably Roger Clinton was not available.) “I would be remiss if I did not comment on how awesome those socks are,” Romney said to Allen. Allen reciprocated by complimenting Romney’s socks. I get the sense that many of the Politico Newsmaker Interviews went like this.
Tonight, Allen, Jim VandeHei, and Juana Summers will be discussing the convention events as they happen. At 6:57, they sit on a raised stage, facing four cameras, waiting to begin. “Mike’s gonna open. Harris is not gonna be on,” a producer says. “They’re seating Craig now. Just open and we’ll get Craig to appear.” Music plays, the cameras go live, and Mike Allen smiles wide. “Good evening and welcome to Politico Live! I’m here with Jim VandeHei and Juana Summers,” he says. “We’re here to take you through the climactic final night of the Republican National Convention.”
On the way back to the convention center, around 7:15, the area before the first security checkpoint is filled with protesters, hustlers, and hangers-on: people selling political buttons; an Asian man hawking Obama and Romney-themed sandwich cookies; a bitter Ron Paul supporter holding open the door of a portable toilet and attempting to usher delegates inside, “because that’s where our democracy is going!” Logan Darrow Clements, a slender man in a purple, short-sleeved collared shirt, hands out DVDs next to a sign reading “Anti-Obama Care Movie.
$15 $10. “I used to be a journalist,” Clements tells me. “I used to run American Venture magazine.” Now, he has produced and stars in Sick and Sicker, a documentary that, according to the blurb on the back, “puts ObamaCare on ice with cold hard facts from Canada.” Clements has some innovative distribution ideas—he is licensing the movie to an advocacy group in Vermont, which plans to shoot its own footage and somehow splice it into Clements’ movie—but he hasn’t had much luck handing copies out tonight. “They assume I’m hostile,” Clements says of the delegates. “It takes them ten seconds to realize I’m on their side.”
I wish him good luck and head into the filing center, where, earlier, the ceiling was leaking despite it being nowhere near the roof. (“It’s probably just an HVAC leak,” one guy said, hopefully.) Now, at 7:45, the Google Lounge has closed and the work tables are almost entirely empty; the only people left in the filing center are those journalists who lack access to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, or are too busy or burnt out to go there. I heave a loud sigh as I sit down at my computer. “I know exactly what you mean,” says the bearded guy to my right. “I’ve got two more things to file, and then I’m gonna ask my editor for permission to die.”
The rest of the building’s filing centers are similarly deserted. Radio Row, once bustling, is now all but vacant. Three shows are still there broadcasting at 8:30 PM, and the only one that’s not from the West Coast is “The American Adversaries” (“Where political professional wrestling lives”), co-hosted by Lar Adams and Christopher Hart on 660 AM WORL in Orlando. The sign above their booth misspells both “wrestling” and “Christopher,” which makes me really like “The American Adversaries,” for some reason.