Earl DeVries stands on a Gulf Coast beach in blue-and-white swim trunks and a t-shirt that reads: “Occupy the White House.” He wears a red National Rifle Association hat.
“We’re here to support conservative values,” he says. “This is a 24-7 political event.”
Sometimes it’s hard to coax media-wary Republican delegates to loosen up. But crashing waves, a steady breeze and a few more questions from a reporter finally persuade DeVries, a diesel engine salesman from Ontario, to loosen up.
“It’s kinda hard to carry a campaign sign into the ocean," he deadpans. "The campaign fliers get soggy. Maybe the ocean is the best place for non-partisanship.”
Like many delegates, DeVries, 56, has jumped into the warm water every day — even as a hurricane threatened to ruin the party. The California delegation is staying at the TradeWinds Hotel on St. Pete's Beach. It sits on a thin stretch of land across Tampa Bay from the convention.
There's plenty of business going on. Representatives of powerful California Indian tribes schmooze with elected officials. Political consultants build relationships with possible future clients. But a lot of it is accompanied by fun — and maybe a Bloody Mary.
For Diane Unterein, 44, of Corona, the convention includes a two-mile run every day, “to that pink hotel down the beach.”
“I also sat in the hot tub when it was raining,” she says. “No worries, no politics.”
It’s like that here. One minute, you’re talking about the pleasures of South Florida: “Don’t hesitate to stick your toes in the water — it's warm,” says Gina Gleason of Chino Hills, lounging on a beach chair.
The next minute, it’s politics: “I just think Paul Ryan is a great communicator.”
Gleason says she’s having a great time. “Just being around like-minded Republicans is energizing.”