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Surrogates play high-stakes game of political football
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As a placekicker for the Brigham Young University football team, Jason Chaffetz loved nothing better than lining up in an opponent’s stadium, drilling the ball through the uprights and hearing the assembled throngs fall silent.
Small wonder, then, that the second-term Republican congressman from Utah relishes his role as a Mitt Romney surrogate at the Democratic National Convention here this week, pressing his party’s electoral case behind rival political lines.
“It’s riskier, politically,” Mr. Chaffetz said. “But I love it. It’s sort of my inner placekicker coming out. When you go out [to kick] in front of 65,000 people, and they’re yelling and screaming and swearing at you, you can’t let it faze you. It’s the same thing here.”
For Democrats, this week’s convention is nothing short of a political Super Bowl: part partisan infomercial, part jamboree, an opportunity to meet, greet and put a collective best foot forward to the national electorate.
For Republicans, by contrast, the event is a juicy, target-rich environment — an opportunity to poke and prod, issue rebuttals, and generally make like the snarky Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppet Show.”
Mimicking a similar Democratic effort at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., last week, the Republican National Committee has set up a temporary base camp at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located across the street from the Charlotte Convention Center and a few blocks from Time Warner Arena, where President Obama will accept his party’s renomination Thursday night.
While the RNC delivers critical daily news conferences from a studio decorated with a stock-car advertising, Mr. Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, the round-the-clock, boots-on-the-studio-floor work of cheerleading the Republican ticket while tsk-tsking Mr. Obama largely falls to surrogates such as Mr. Chaffetz.
Following first lady Michelle Obama’s Tuesday night speech, Mr. Chaffetz criticized the president’s economic policies on the Fox News Channel; six hours later, he was sparring with Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy on a CNN morning show.
“You just have to be immensely flexible,” Mr. Chaffetz said. “Ready to roll. You don’t want to let [Democrats] make over-the-top assertions without a response. I’m here to offer a little perspective.”
When Mr. Chaffetz arrived at CNN’s studio Wednesday morning, network producer Shannon High was on hand to greet him.
Mr. Chaffetz grinned.
“I am deep in enemy territory,” he said.
In Tampa, Mr. Chaffetz addressed GOP delegate breakfast meetings alongside Tagg Romney, son of the presidential standard-bearer, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, making a positive case for Mr. Romney.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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