||Syndicated columnist Robert Novak is co-host of CNN's "Evans Novak, Hunt & Shields," as well as "Crossfire." He is providing exclusive convention analysis for CNN.com.|
Robert Novak: Behind the scenes at the GOP convention
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- The 37th Republican National Convention is devoid of contests and short on conflict. It is intended to be an extended infomercial. But there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Here's some of them, from my notebook.
The Great Ticket Shortage: During the weekend before the convention began, the major topic of conversation was the shortage of guest tickets for distinguished Republicans -- especially financial contributors.
"They have hijacked the party," complained veteran Ohio Republican Chairman Robert Bennett. He was referring to the GOP's money-raisers who have reserved blocs of tickets that normally are given to state delegations.
But the Comcast First Union Center in Philadelphia, an arena intended for watching basketball and hockey, is just too small for today's national political convention. Many delegates wish they had gone to the runner-up in the 2000 site selection: Indianapolis, which has a huge domed stadium used for football (and many more downtown hotel rooms as well).
What's in store for the future?
The Republican National Committee last week passed a resolution reserving guest seats for party delegations.
And the day of conventions in places like the First Union Center may be over. Look for future conventions in domes in places like Indianapolis, Seattle and New Orleans.
A quiet Monday: If there were going to be any floor fights at this convention, they would take place Monday morning. That's the only scheduled day session, when television viewership will be at a minimum.
But even in that restricted window, one floor fight would be one too many for Gov. George W. Bush's strategists. Clarke Reed, a longtime Republican leader from Mississippi, found that out Sunday morning.
Reed had collected sufficient position to appeal the decision of the convention's rules committee to give all 165 members of the Republican National Committee automatic delegate slots at the 2004 convention. To Reed, that will begin a slippery slope toward the Democratic Party's installations of more than 500 super-delegates.
By Saturday night, Reed thought he had lined up enough delegates to defeat the proposal on the floor Monday night. Several Bush aides agreed with him privately. But on Sunday morning, Reed got the word from the Bush high command. No floor fights -- and we mean it. Reed pleaded that just a little controversy might arouse public interest. To no avail. There will be no floor fight.
No Term Limits: The 2000 Republican platform is scarcely less conservative than the very conservative 1996 platform. But there are some notable omissions from the document of four years ago-including term limits.
The last several Republican platforms have called for limitations on terms served by members of Congress. This year's platform is not only silent on the subject. It wasn't even debated in the platform committee.
As one Republican leader privately described it to me: "Hardly any politician supports term limits, but we used to pretend that we did. Now we've cut out the hypocrisy."
Where is Dan Quayle?: Only two conventions ago, he was the Republican vice president of the United States. But Dan Quayle isn't even scheduled to be in Philadelphia this week.
Quayle, who dropped out early in competition for the 2000 presidential nomination, was not given a speaking spot here in Philadelphia. That fit a pattern by convention managers to keep controversial figures off the podium. Eliminated, in addition to Quayle, were evangelist Pat Robertson, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.
That chilled Quayle. He said last week he would stay home in Arizona.