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Nikki Haley in the GOP
Associated Press/Photo by Lynne Sladky
Nikki Haley in the GOP "war room"

Real-time rebuttals

2012 Conventions | As Democrats gather this week in Charlotte, Republicans are stationed nearby, on alert, and ready to respond

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-The GOP is at the DNC.

For those of you who have not been caught up in the campaign convention carnival of the last two weeks may be a little rusty with the above political jargon. So here's a translation: The Republican Party (the Grand Old Party) has camped itself just outside the security perimeter of the Democratic National Convention.

The Republican's rapid response team, operating inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, is acting like a political version of a race pit crew: About two-dozen Republican operatives are poised to dole out instant counter narratives to the marathon lineup of speakers delivering pro-Obama and anti-Romney rhetoric to the rowdy crowd gathered a few blocks away at Time Warner Cable Arena.

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Huddled in a "war room" where signs hang reminding everyone that the nation has endured 42-straight months of unemployment above 8 percent, these opposition researchers and spokespeople keep their fingers on their computer keyboards and their eyes focused on the room's nine big-screen televisions tuned to every news channel.

"We know Democrats have the microphone this week," said Brian Jones, a Republican advisor and one of the center's managers. "But we are just making sure they aren't getting a free pass."

This remains about the only place in uptown Charlotte this week where you will hear such proclamations as "The thrill and pixie dust of Barack Obama's presidency is gone."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus uttered those words on Monday during the first of daily press briefings scheduled to occur here throughout the week. These events are conducted next to a parked Romney-Ryan racecar painted red, white, and blue. The slogan "Are you better off?" is plastered on banners in numerous places.

During Wednesday's press event here, Republican women, such as Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, hit back against the Democrats' weeklong aggressive outreach to women. Haley argued that female voters are as concerned about the nation's struggling economy as the social issues like abortion Democrats are touting.

To back up that point, Gov. Haley introduced Melanie McNamara, owner of a furniture plant in High Point, N.C., who now has regrets about her vote for President Obama four years ago. McNamara said she collected 420 applications for just five recent job openings.

"I'm not angry. I'm disappointed," she said. "Everything we heard in the last election was all rhetoric. I really wanted to believe in all that change. It hasn't occurred. It has gotten worse in my town."

Republicans at this fast response site also mocked the more than 30 current, former, and prospective Democratic lawmakers who have decided to skip this year's convention. Life-sized cutouts of missing Democrats now locked in tight reelection races, such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, greet visitors as they enter the Republican operations center. Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina on Wednesday made a personal invitation for North Carolina Rep. Larry Kissell to "come on down" to the convention. Despite representing a district that is a short drive from Charlotte, Kissell, a Democrat, is absent from convention activities.

Republicans also suggested the Democrats' decision Wednesday to move President Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech from the larger Bank of America Stadium to Charlotte's smaller indoor arena had more to do with an inability to fill seats at the outdoor venue and less to do with a threat of rain.

And Republicans blasted Democrats for the remarks in their convention opening video Tuesday night proclaiming, "Government is the only thing that we all belong to."

"Do you want a president who believes in you or a president who believes in government," asked Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores, who also answered questions in Spanish, a subtle counter argument against the Democrats' claim that they are the sole party for Hispanics.

As they leave the Republican outpost, reporters are handed a press kit of swag that includes a "You didn't build that" Lego set, a "Breaking up is hard to do" pack of tissues, and a blank sheet that is supposed to represent "Obama's second-term agenda."

This operations center replicates a similar war room set up by Democrats last week in Tampa during the Republican National Convention. The two centers signal that both political parties are ready to abandon the tradition that each party should remain silent during the other party's convention. Instead, today's campaigns are reluctant to cede even a single day much less an entire week of coverage to their opponents.


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