As soon as I walked into Reagan National airport Thursday morning and witnessed a camera crew from Reuters prepared to film my departure, I knew that for me the convention experience had just officially begun. My dad and I landed in Tampa early afternoon and eventually boarded a shuttle for the airport. My phone battery died during the ride after receiving constant calls from a variety of RNC officials, who were coordinating media appearances and private meetings for the rest of the week on my behalf.
After charging my phone in the room and resuming my business calls, we were joined by two other members of the Virginia delegation, Marta Saltus, an alternate delegate from the 8th congressional district, and Ryan Thomas, my official guest. Knowing this would be my only opportunity to get a good night's sleep, we retired early after an amazing dinner at the boardwalk restaurant, Columbia (known for its Cuban cuisine).
I started the day Friday by enjoying a free continental breakfast, procured for our group by my dad's expert negotiating skills (he is a lawyer, after all). Since the RNC had already booked media appearances for me beginning today, I had to receive special clearance and travel to the convention center early (most delegates will not arrive there until the convention officially convenes on Monday). As soon as I arrived there, a local Tampa Bay broadcasting network snatched me off the street for an interview (after hearing from an nearby RNC official that I was indeed the youngest delegate).
With my first television interview completed, I was escorted into the RNC's hub of operations and introduced to the staff that has been working so feverishly to handle my crowded schedule. My first interview inside the convention center occurred at 1 p.m. with a reporter from Politico. After conducting a short sit-down interview, the reporter wanted to follow me around a bit and capture the life of a young RNC delegate. Lucky for him, NBC Nightly News asked to meet me in the Times Forum to get a profile for potential use in the future. I entered the forum awestruck at the preparations going on—which probably made for good footage—and uniquely aware of the great opportunity this represented for me.
The Politico reporter also got the benefit of hearing me call into a local Maryland radio station ("Maryland's News Now") and give an interview over the phone. After returning to the hub and bidding farewell to everyone for the day, I journeyed to Tropicana Field with the rest of my posse for a baseball game. We picked up another member of the Virginia delegation as well who had just landed, delegate Geraldine Davie.
The game was close (5-4, Oakland A's bested Tampa Bay), but the most interesting moment happened before we entered the arena. While going through security, I was told that I could not bring the camouflage Romney hat I was wearing into the stadium. I was forced to walk four blocks back to the car, in the process missing 30 minutes of the game. Rather than view it as an inconvenience however, I view it as a compliment: I must be too political for even a political convention.
Since it is now well past midnight, I should probably get some rest. After all, who knows what tomorrow will bring?