TAMPA, Fla. — Newt Gingrich hoped to get a coveted speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. Instead the Romney campaign will have him teach a series of workshops they have nicknamed Newt University.
Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are not scheduled to speak, either. They have decided to stage their own mini-convention of sorts — calling it a “unity rally” to dispel any doubts about their party loyalty — at a megachurch about 20 minutes outside town.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is trying to be a good sport about getting passed over for a speech. “That’s not my call to make,” he said in an interview this week. “The convention is for Mitt Romney, not for me. Not for Newt, not for Marco Rubio, not for Chris Christie. It’s for Mitt.”
As Mr. Romney and his team make the final adjustments to their plans for the convention, which opens here in two and a half weeks, they are grappling with the delicate questions that hang over these quadrennial gatherings of clashing ambition, competing political agendas and outsize egos. Add to this year’s mix personalities colorful enough to fill a reality show, and the fastidiously controlled, leave-nothing-to-chance Romney campaign has faced some hazardous casting choices. And what they decide could turn off the independent voters their carefully choreographed convention is meant to sway.
Take the two Republicans who literally are reality stars: Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. Though neither has been formally named to speak yet, convention planners are still considering adding both to the schedule. The Romney campaign declined to comment on any speakers that had not been announced yet.
Despite being unpredictable and polarizing, both are popular with certain elements of the party base. In an interview, Mr. Trump happily explained his appeal with voters. “They like what I say,” he said. “I’m a very popular guy, as crazy as it might sound. It’s nice to be loved.”
So loved, in fact, that the high demand for Trump appearances may just conflict with his ability to be in Tampa that week, he said. “The Republican Party in Sarasota — you’ve probably heard of this — they’re giving me the Statesman of the Year award,” he said, adding that he did not want to overextend himself. (As quantitative proof of his popularity, Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman called immediately after the interview to note that he has 1.4 million Twitter followers, a number that she said is growing by about 40,000 a week.)
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