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The odd couple: NYC and GOP convention

Conservatives make most of Big Apple experience

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- With his cowboy hat, oversized Bush button and slow, easy way of speaking, Wayne Turner is every inch the Texan.

The self-described "country boy" and "drug store rancher" from Waxahachie, about 30 miles south of Dallas, is on his first extended visit to New York City as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

And the Big Apple -- loud, crowded and chock full of outspoken liberals -- has given him an eyeful and an earful.

"I enjoy people-watching," Turner, 67, said. "And y'all have some of the most interesting people."

Turner's polite understatement underscores the inevitable culture clash that comes when one of the world's most liberal and ethnically diverse cities plays host to a Republican convention humming with thousands of passionate and committed conservatives determined to re-elect President Bush.

The city and the convention are something of an odd couple, a forced marriage in which both sides are trying to make the best of it.

Well, sort of.

This is, after all, a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a better than 5-1 margin.

Anti-Bush protests are part of the backdrop here, and there have been hundreds of related arrests. Signs declaring "Not my president" dot some apartment windows. And though Madison Square Garden and the convention host hotels offer Bush-Cheney memorabilia, sidewalk vendors hawk t-shirts with a less than charitable -- sometimes profane -- view of the GOP ticket.

Yes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a Republican, but as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control, he has little in common with his brethren who write the party platform, which takes conservative stances on those social issues.

One headline in a political magazine summed up the GOP-NYC relationship this way: "Buyers' Remorse."

Carol "Bucky" Smith, another proud member of the Texas delegation, said she's enjoying her experience in the city, but she acknowledged being baffled by her party's choice to hold the convention here.

"It sounded kind of stupid," she said with a laugh, recalling her reaction to the site selection. "It doesn't make sense."

Some delegates say they've had unpleasant sidewalk encounters with New Yorkers who sound off on their views of the Bush administration. Several told of being yelled at as they have taken in the city sights, whether it's a Broadway show or a tour of Central Park.

"I like New York," said Linda Jo Poole of Macon, Georgia. "But I'm a little bit taken aback by the protesters."

But other delegates spoke warmly of the hospitality extended by the police and hotel staffs. And if New Yorkers are brash and bold, well, several delegates said, that's part of the New York experience.

"You just have to appreciate the excitement and the differences here," said Toni Anne Dashiell, a delegate from San Antonio, Texas.

Despite the difference in politics, many delegates spoke of an affection for New York, one they say flowered in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"New York was a foreign place for many people in the hinterlands," said Marty Connors, state chairman of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee. "But New York became the emotional capital after 9/11. You just can't forget what happened here."


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