With headline speakers Karl Rove, Tim Pawlenty, and Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans were among nearly 1,700 attendees to one of the largest State of Wisconsin Republican Conventions in recent memory. The group, consisting of nearly 35 members, trickled into the Hyatt-Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, throughout the day Friday, May 21 but a core group arrived early in the morning Friday to help set up for the festivities and then along with others worked into the afternoon assisting candidates, promoting their campaigns and agendas. The main event on Friday evening was the chairman's reception held at the historic Harley-Davidson Museum. Celebrated Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty addressed a raucous crowd in the packed Rumble Room. Ryan talked about the insanity of health care reform and the Democrat's budget and fiscal messes while Governor Pawlenty spoke about similar issues and inspired those in the crowd to commit themselves to core values of fiscal conservatism. Soon after, shuttle buses provided rides back to the Hyatt where hospitality suites opened up for the remainder of the evening.
Convention started in earnest early Saturday morning and Charlotte Evans, the new WICR chair, spoke to the 1000 plus delegates in the Frontier Airlines Center, assuring them that the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans were thoroughly and completely committed to the cause of bringing the State of Wisconsin back to Republican control in 2010. Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus addressed the crowd about the importance of uniting together to elect GOP majorities and clean up after the Democrat's failing policies. The high point of the convention that morning was the official Party endorsement of Scott Walker in the gubenatorial race. Scott won the endorsement over his closest challenger, former congressman Mark Neumann, by an overwhelming percentage setting the stage for the State Party to throw it's weight behind his campaign to defeat Tom Barrett, the hand-picked successor to governor Jim Doyle on the Democrat side. The rest of the convention was a long, drawn-out process with several votes and re-votes to make party endorsements in two crowded, multi-candidate Statewide races; one being Lt Governor and the other being the Senate race against stalwart Democrat Russ Feingold.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire convention occurred Saturday night during the Chairman's Banquet where Karl Rove was introduced as the keynote speaker. In the, hot and packed standing-room only venue, 600 of the convention followers heard the Architect of the George Bush 43 ascendancy give over an hour-long speech about the pressing issues of the 2010 election cycle, as well as some of the amazing experiences he has had in lifetime of giving speeches.
"And if you don't believe you go talk to the man who figured this all out," Rove said after introducing in detail, the major shenanigans in the health care bill. "His name is Paul Ryan."
The crowd rose to it's feet.
"The principle they forgot when it came to health care was this," he continued. "The American people pay attention. We're not that dumb. We're not that stupid. Think about this. If you go and take a look at the polls from January, February, and March of last year people by a margin of 2 to 1 supported health care reform. They thought it was a good idea, 'Yea, let's explore. We need to improve our system.' But then we started reading and watching. The President kicked off on March 5 of last year a 51-week drive for national health care. He gave 58 speeches, 2 nationally-televised addresses to the nation. He had a 59-41 margin in the Senate, he had a 255 to 178 in the house and this may shock ya, I know there are a lot of idealistic young people in here but the national media is sorta liberal and didn't challenge him. And guess what happened! People educated themselves, they talked to the doc down the street, they talked to the nurse, they talked to the hospital administrator, they talked to the drug saleswoman, they talked to the pharmacist. . .they educated themselves about it. By August of last year we were on fire and by the time it came around to the vote if you take all of the polls taken in the couple of weeks leading up to the vote, it was about 38% favoring bill presented by Obama and the Democrats in congress and 60% opposed and the strongly opposed outnumbered the strongly supported by 2 to 1. That's because the American people educated themselves."
Rove then completed his speech with a touching story about his experiences with wounded and fallen soldiers in the Military and in particular one individual soldier who had been shot 8 times, was in the process of having his face reconstructed, and was now more than willing to go back to Afghanistan for yet another tour of duty.
The convention wrapped up Sunday afternoon, after an endorsement of recently-announced candidate Ron Johnson in the Feingold Senate race, a long half day of votes, and a kick-off campaign rally by Walker and Johnson, weary delegates finally departed for home and while some of the College Republicans stayed around to help clean up after the festivities, many took after the weary convention-goers and slowly left Milwaukee, bringing their renewed passions back to home cities to help turn the tide in the State and national legislature.