The Republican convention is not just an event for rolling out Mitt Romney 2.0 and a new party platform. As any politician who's ever silently coveted the kind of enormous political leap Obama made at the 2004 Democratic convention can attest, it's a place for new faces. Below, meet five of the lucky politicians the GOP has chosen to introduce to the county.
Sam Olens, who became the attorney general of Georgia in 2010 in his first statewide election, is a Peach State political oddity: he’s an urban dweller, Jewish, Florida-born, and New Jersey-bred, and earlier this year, he was one of the few notables in Georgia politics who backed Mitt Romney over Newt Gingrich.
Olens can play partisan. He joined the Supreme Court case against the Affordable Care Act, he has been known to refuse legal advice to Democratic legislators while freely advising Republicans, and last week, he defended the abortion plank of the GOP’s platform, which did not include an exception for victims of rape or incest, against accusations that it was too extreme. But Olens, who helped author the platform, also strives to construes himself as a sober policy brain. Expect his convention remarks, which may focus on health care policy, to complement his desired image as the thinking man’s Ken Cuccinelli.
The first female governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin is in some ways the exact breed of down-the-ticket social conservative you are already familiar with. She opposes bills addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation, signed a measure banning abortion after 20 weeks, and goes to bat for school prayer. Fallin often mocks governmental efforts to track and delay climate change. (Perhaps that’s because she prefers a more aggressive approach. During last summer’s unprecedented drought, a press release from Fallin’s office encouraged Oklahomans to pray for rain.)
On the other hand, despite a long campaign against the Affordable Care Act as a congressperson, Fallin has not joined other Republican governors in rejecting the ACA’s Medicare funds—instead, that she is quietly leaving the door open. Previewing her speech for an Oklahoma paper, Fallin promised to opine on “the spirit of Oklahoma”—and on the success of one of its energy tycoons.
The winsome Pam Bondi was a favorite of television hosts like Nancy Grace well before she became Florida’s attorney general in 2010, so it’s no surprise that she’s been invited to bask in the national spotlight by the GOP, and that her name has been floated for a Romney Justice Department appointment.
But Bondi is not just known for being telegenic. Constituents have noticed that she lacks enthusiasm in investigating the mortgage lenders that devastated Florida homeowners, and her office has been accused of firing two of its top fraud investigators at the behest of a mortgage giant they were scrutinizing. And attorney generals from states like California have quit her mortgage task force, citing its lack of initiative.
Florida Senate candidate Connie Mack has a prime spot in the closing ceremonies of the Republican Convention—at the top of the lineup, right before the misty-eyed Reagan Legacy Video. It’s another sign that the GOP is going all-in for Mack, who has been boosted by millions in conservative outside spending already. As TNR’s Perry Stein explained recently, Republicans feel strongly entitled to the seat for which Mack is competing, and if he wins it, he could help bring Florida more securely into the Republican column.
Mack had to remake himself after a life lived as a “former promoter for Hooters with a history of bar room brawling, altercations, and road rage,” with “one of the worst attendance records in Congress.” But his rebirthing process mostly consisted of sitting in Congress for seven years. (Wrote Stein, “in my interviews, few politicos in either party have been able to point to any major legislative achievement since he’s been elected.”) You wouldn’t be wrong to anticipate a speech that is more star-spangled than substantive.
The governor of Puerto Rico is not always a reliable backer of the GOP party line. Luis Fortuño, who was elected in 2009, lauded the Supreme Court appointment of Sonia Sotomayor at a time when most conservatives were lambasting her, and he pooh-poohed Rick Santorum’s populist recommendation that English ought to be Puerto Rico’s official language. But for a party that badly needs to appeal to Latinos but struggles to do so, a little dissent along these lines is probably a good thing.