Convention Notebook

Election 2004 -- The Republican Convention

September 02, 2004

New York's proud parent

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took time out yesterday to gloat about how smoothly his city has handled the convention.

The city has shown this week that "this is where you get your message out," he said. "New York is hot at the moment."

Complaining that "every story the press writes is about the potential for a calamity," Bloomberg, who built the media empire bearing his name, argued that journalists had scared people needlessly.

"The subways worked, you could take the subways right into Penn Station," he said. "You guys wrote stories about how the subways would never work."

And the mayor bragged that he got caught in only two traffic jams this week. One was in Midtown. The other? At the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens.

Not giving up on Maryland

Some of Maryland's delegates were none too pleased by a request from Bush operatives yesterday that they leave their state three days before the Nov. 2 election and head north.

Maryland's delegates joined those from Alabama and Pennsylvania for a briefing by the Bush campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, and others. When it came time to discuss the campaign's 72-hour plan - the final push to get out the vote through phone calls and car rides to polls - Maryland delegates were told they should go to Pennsylvania, a key swing state. They were offered transportation and lodging.

But Maryland delegates say they are optimistic about their own state and vow to close the gap of 12 percentage points by which President Bush trails John Kerry in Maryland.

"That's not what we are doing," said Koreen Hughes of Eldersburg, an aide to state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who's running against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, referring to leaving the state. "We are going door to door. We are going to win."

Maryland has a chance, Hughes said, to become a competitive state in future national elections despite the Democrats' registration edge of nearly 2-to-1. "Then Pennsylvania can come and help us," she said.

Others agreed. "I try to do as much in Maryland as I can," said state Del. George C. Edwards, the House minority leader.

Where are the customers?

Manhattan businesses surrounding Madison Square Garden face a quandary: Many would-be customers are staying away to avoid the hassle of traffic and run-ins with police officers. Most of the businesses had been counting on Republicans attending the convention to come spend money.

Then there's Peep World on Eighth Avenue. The shop sells handcuffs, condoms, massage lotion and how-to books. And that's only a sampling that can be printed in a newspaper.

For some reason, delegates and other Republican conventioneers aren't strolling into Peep World with their Bush-Cheney buttons and convention credentials.

"It's just not like other days here," a clerk complained.

A little more color, please

Something was different in the convention hall last night. On the blue risers where reporters sit on either side of the stage, two bright red plastic lines were now stripped across the front of the reporters' desks. On Monday and Tuesday nights, there had been only one line.

How closely choreographed is this convention?

When John Hugg, a carpenter, came to work yesterday, he was told by the company he works for that Republican officials thought TV shots of the arena hall looked too bland.

"They wanted more color," said Hugg, who spent the day putting more than 600 feet of red plastic onto the blue curtain in front of where reporters work. Hugg said he thought the change was related to the speakers' list - which included the vice president last night and the president tonight.

"That was my interpretation," he said.

A one-man protest

Late Tuesday, Fernando Suarez Del Solar stood outside the convention hall after the night session with a sign saying, "Bush lied and my son died."

The sign bore a photo of a young man in uniform whom Del Solar identified as his son Jesus, a Marine lance corporal who was killed in Iraq in March 2003. He was 20.

"I demand the Republican people enforce the peace for this country and stop the lies," Del Solar said.

Secret Service and other security personnel crowded around Del Solar, who had a media credential that allowed access into the convention complex. Del Solar said he obtained his credential through a Spanish-language news and opinion station. He belongs to Military Families Speak Out, a coalition of 1,500 families with relatives serving in Iraq or killed in action there who oppose the war.

Del Solar staged his one-man protest in a smart spot: the enclosed pedestrian bridge that reporters are using to cross from their work stations outside the hall into the Garden.

A producer for Univision, the Spanish-language TV network, scooped up Del Solar for an interview in the network's booth inside Madison Square Garden, leaving the cluster of security agents who had gathered around gazing after him.

Sun staff writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis, David L. Greene and David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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