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Florida delegation to stay at Innisbrook

Posted Apr 30, 2012 by William March

Updated Apr 30, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Hotel assignments for the 2012 Republican National Convention are out, and the Florida delegation will be staying 25 miles out of town at Innisbrook resort—what looks like a punishment for the state’s schedule-busting presidential primary date, although an RNC spokesman denied that.

Mapquest calls it a 40-minute, 25-mile drive from Innisbrook to the convention site, but that’s taking the shorter but more likely traffic-ridden Memorial Highway/Hillsborough Avenue route. The delegation will be travelling by buses, and might stick to the longer, U.S. 19 and Courtney Campbell Causeway route.

On the other hand, it’s a deluxe resort, with golf handy.

The situation is likely to remind some veteran Florida GOP activists of the 1996 San Diego convention when, with no claim on nominee Bob Dole but with growing importance as a swing state, the Florida delegation got assigned accommodations that were far out of town, but in a deluxe, new resort on Coronado Beach.

Of course, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney’s home state, got the Marriott Waterside, the prime convention turf, a prime resort located next door to the action on the convention floor. Normally, Florida, as the nation’s top swing state and convention host, would have had similar digs.

The Florida delegation could be subject to such indignities under national Republican Party rules because the state held its presidential primary Jan. 31, violating the party’s primary schedule. Floridians can also expect their seats on the convention floor to be less than the choice, front row-center assignments they normally would have expected.

They’ll also lose guest and VIP passes the delegates normally get to hand out to friends—but RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who gets the discretion to decide what to do with the forfeited passes, is expected to simply hand most of them back.

A couple of other notes concerning the assignments:

—The Hyatt Regency downtown, probably the second choice after the Marriott Waterside, went to the delegations from Wisconsin—Priebus’s home state—and Mississippi, home state of Missiissippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman, former chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, and longtime major fundraiser.

—Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum’s home state, will be at the Tampa Airport Double Tree, and Newt Gingrich’s Georgia delegation gets the Grand Hyatt off Courtney Campbell.

—Michigan, Romney’s second home state, got the Embassy Suites downtown.

—Florida will share Innisbrook with the South Carolina delegation.

James Davis, spokesman for the RNC Committee on Arrangements, which made the assignments, denied there was any “punishment” involved.

Davis said the committee placed 56 delegations—50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia—in 36 of the 105 convention hotels, all located in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, based on the sizes of the delegations and their requests concerning price, meeting space and other accommodations.

“We tried to put it together like a puzzle,” he said. One of the biggest problems, he added, was accommodating the four largest delegations—California, New York, Texas and Florida—without splitting them up.

“All these hotels are places we would recommend to our friends and family,” he said.

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