Big names, speeches and lobster macaroni and cheese

    Carol McDowell, the sole Elkhart County rep at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., sighted many big GOP names, heard numerous speeches and stayed very busy during the event.
    Posted on Aug. 31, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

    There were the sightings — Minnesota lawmaker Michele Bachmann and actor Jon Voight, among others.

    There were also the speeches — from Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

    Indeed, it was a packed four days for Carol McDowell, the sole delegate from Elkhart County at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. She expects to get home today, Aug. 31, and she looks forward to some down time — under the covers.

    “I’ll be looking forward to getting to Elkhart and sleeping through the rainy weekend,” she said Thursday via phone from Tampa as the convention wound down, but before the grand finale, Mitt Romney’s speech.

    That said, it was an unforgettable experience, and her accounts of the activity in a pair of phone calls as the convention unfolded paint a picture of seeming non-stop frenzy and controlled chaos. Days typically started around 7 a.m. and extended to 1:30 a.m. the following day, with maybe an hour of down time in between.

    “It’s rigorous,” she said Wednesday from her hotel during one such rest period. “It doesn’t sound like it maybe, but it’s rigorous.”

    The main order of business was formally nominating Romney as the GOP presidential candidate, which occurred without a hitch. McDowell, a former member of the Elkhart City Council who’s long been active in local Republican politics, was one of 46 delegates from Indiana.

    But there was plenty more, all with the aim of rallying the Republican troops ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.


    She saw plenty big GOP names — Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, and Rudy Guiliani, the former New York City mayor. Bachmann, though, who unsuccessfully ran for president, seemed to leave the biggest impression.

    “She’s beautiful, a beautiful person,” said McDowell, who shook the U.S. House member’s hand. Tiny though — maybe 5-feet tall.

    She also saw Voight drinking what seemed to be a vodka concoction and Jesse Watters, the off-beat correspondent from the O’Reilly Factor, the Fox News Channel program hosted by Bill O’Reilly.

    There were plenty of big names from Indiana as well. Several leaders from the state, including U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, and gubernatorial hopeful Mike Pence traveled to Florida to take part in the convention and address the Hoosier group.


    McDowell gave GOP U.S. House hopeful Jackie Walorski’s speech at the convention high marks. Walorski was one of only a few congressional candidates from around the country to address the body.

    “She was awesome,” said McDowell, who’s active in Walorski’s campaign as well as that of Tim Neese, the Republican member of the Indiana House from Elkhart seeking re-election.

    Tuesday’s speech by Ann Romney also got high marks. “She spoke from the heart and brought back memories of my own life and talked about reality,” said McDowell, attending her first GOP convention.

    Christie, the New Jersey governor, was “hysterical,” she said, and his comment that the GOP cares for teachers while Democrats care for teachers’ unions was particularly “meaningful.”

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley displayed “good speaking presence” while former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “gave a state-of-the-union quality speech.”


    Some people cut loose at night during events like the RNC, including a few of the younger members of the Indiana delegation. But not McDowell, who owns and operates McDowell Enterprises, an Elkhart electroplating firm.

    “I’m not very wild,” she said.

    Still, there’s plenty to remember, even aside from the speeches and big GOP names.

    She was interviewed by a British journalist about her unique headgear, a “fantasy reality hat” featuring Mickey Mouse ears and Romney buttons.

    There was the noisy Iowa contingent in front of the Indiana group at the Tampa Bay Times Forum that hollered loudly for Ron Paul, the Libertarian-leaning lawmaker and former presidential hopeful.

    There was the food, like lobster macaroni and cheese.

    All together, though, packed in a few days, it takes a toll.

    “I’m whipped, I’m whipped,” she said Thursday, ready for a break.

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