Michael Saragosa was thirsty. He wanted to grab a quick soda prior to settling in for Wednesday night’s big speech by Wisconsin Congressman and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan at the Republican National Convention.
So, Saragosa — a delegate from the Northern California town of Placerville — climbed the stairs from where the Golden State delegation is seated on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, tucked "stage right" just in front of a VIP section where Mitt Romney sat the day before.
“But I got stuck off the floor,” he said later. The Tampa Fire Marshal said too many people were crowding the area. Indeed, from the press box above, every aisle looked jammed. “Even though we were delegates, and had the right to be on the floor. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back in time.”
Saragosa, Republican to the core, was forced to watch the party’s fastest rising star on a TV in the hallway.
Several dozen other people appeared to be locked out too and some were vocal in their protests. Saragosa, who works in government affairs, took it in stride.
“That’s not our style,” he said, speaking for a friend who was also unable to see Ryan. “It was disappointing. But we figured [the fire marshals] were doing their job.”
As for what Saragosa saw on TV: “Ryan hit a home run.”
That’s what a lot of California delegates said as they ate late-night prime rib and pizza — and sipped cocktails and beer — back at their hotel in St. Pete Beach.
“I thought the speech was electrifying,” said Martha Flores Gibson, a state assembly candidate from Long Beach. “I was mesmerized by his family story — his mother, his deceased father.”
Gwen Dyrud, a delegate from Santa Ana, said Ryan showed confidence when he proclaimed, "We can do this."
“Oh I loved that,” said Dyrud, who works as an office manager, adding that she liked Ryan’s tone. “He didn’t talk like a highfalutin' congressman. He talked like your neighbor that was trying to convince you of what needed to be done.”
Pundits pontificated on how undecided voters in swing states might react to the speech. There was little doubt how the GOP faithful felt inside the convention hall.
“I was lifted up,” said Rebecca Stetson, a stay-at-home mom from Ventura. “I really felt like there’s a great future ahead of us if we can get them in the White House.”