Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: The Sound of One Hand Clapping at the GOP Convention

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Rye Brook, N.Y. – Even the swag bags at the State Republican Convention are disappointing.

Swag (which stands for "Stuff We All Get") are giveaways that are distributed to delegates and political reporters in bags that are typically filled with all sorts of goodies from various convention sponsors: food, CDs, even zip drives touting all of the fun things that you won't get to do while you're in town because you're too busy talking to an alternate delegate at the hotel bar.

In this case, though, the highlight of the bag – besides a brochure touting Westchester as the place to be – are two "Road Trip Car Coasters." And maybe that's the symbolic takeaway of this convention: there isn't that much to take home with you.

It's amazing that the State Republican Party isn't sitting in a better position after the last ten years in which a Democratic State Comptroller went to prison for corruption, a Democratic governor resigned because of a prostitution scandal, and his successor imploded his way out of the governor's mansion.

But three-plus years of iron rule in a Cuomo administration can beat the hope right out of you – and many of the delegates here privately admit that they're just hoping to hold onto the State Senate – which they control only because of an internal rift with the Democrats in that body.

The state Republicans last gathered two years ago in Tampa at the party's national convention – where there was still plenty of hope among the delegates of Mitt Romney unseating President Obama. But how excited can you expect a crowd to get over Dean Skelos?

In a weird symbolic touch, the keynote speaker of this event last night was Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who could lose his own battle for re-election this November.

Indeed, there is little political eye candy in the halls of this sprawling, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired hotel. Instead, you're treated to former Republican candidates who are answers to trivia questions. (Quick: name the offices that John Burnett, John Faso, George Maragos, and Chris Callaghan unsuccessfully ran for. If you don't know, you can ask them because they're all here!)

Also prowling the halls of the Hilton is the party's last gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who is being shadowed by John Haggerty, a Republican political operative who went to prison for stealing campaign funds from Mayor Bloomberg.

Sans baseball bat, Paladino is playing relatively nice after talking about possibly running as a Conservative against the GOP candidate, Rob Astorino, and Cuomo. Paladino has taken to calling his party's presumptive nominee "Robby" while making ominous threats about dealing with Dean Skelos "after the election."

But Democrats are getting the brunt of the punches. Even though Cuomo is supposed to be the target of this event, Mayor de Blasio has taken a few whacks as well, with State Attorney General candidate John Cahill saying the mayor "makes President Obama look like William F. Buckley."

Trying to keep the whole show moving is the party's chairman, Ed Cox, who kept yesterday's proceedings running like a patrician Ed Sullivan as the Peter Lawrence Orchestra played jazz during breaks in the program.

One would imagine that GOP state senator Henry Francis from "Mad Men" would feel right at home here. The problem for the party is that program is set in 1969.

Bob Hardt

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