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Nancy Smith

Passion High Among Delegates of Presidency 5

September 22, 2011 - 6:00pm

An aged but still vigorous Carlos Enrique from Miami trudged up the long steps to Presidency 5 wearing sandals and hefting a wooden cross.

I asked him why he wasnt using the escalator.

I walk the road of hope, Enrique told me. I want to remind my fellow delegates that this isnt an easy road for Americans right now. Its a lot about faith.

There is something delicious, something exotic about hanging out this week at the Orange County Convention Center with the passionate delegates of Presidency 5. More than 3,000 Republicans, some with a taste for tea, came from towns and cities across Florida this week to join the biggest event in the Republican Party of Florida's calendar, the conventional, presidential debate and straw poll. More are expected this weekend.

Delegate Carole Lane Martin of Osceola, clinking and clanking under her collection of more than 500 political buttons, said she pursued her spot as a delegate to learn how to be the best possible advocate for returning America to conservative viewpoints.

Ryan Schulte of Duval County, a Floridian for only five years, was formerly president of the College Republicans of Central Michigan. He said hes on board for Presidency 5 because I hope to decide who I want to support. I think everybody here believes our country is in trouble.

Joseph and Marie LaVoie of Collier County said they wanted to be delegates because, in Joseph's words, "this year it doesn't matter which Republican candidate we choose. We're going to elect a better one than the man in the White House now."

Carl Ferris, Anthony Minelli, Betty Jones, Joanne Marin -- and thousands like them, delegates all -- strolled up and down the aisles of booths representing conservative organizations passing out freebies and looking for love, 2012 candidates scaring up support and purveyors of everything from political ties and bumper stickers to jewelry and framed photos of Ronald Reagan.

"You know, I almost feel giddy," Ferris said. "Being here is the most fun I've had in a long time."

Standing at a sandwich carving station with six other delegates, Joel Benton of Daytona Beach had this to say: "Look at us. Nobody can get us down today. You know why? Because we know we're about to change America. We know we're going to get rid of (President Barack) Obama. We're going to give a kick in the behind to this country and elect a president who will balance the budget and stop spending us into oblivion."

Republicans having fun is all this is.

Republicans partying up a storm.

This is an opinion column: Reach Nancy Smith at, or at (850) 727-0859.

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