By Betsy Rothstein - 09/03/08 10:05 PM EDT
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge have more in common than the fact that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) passed on them both for vice president. On Wednesday morning, both offered rare glimpses into their personal lives at a Minnesota delegation breakfast in St. Paul.
Romney, flanked at the podium by his blond wife, Ann, and two clean-cut sons, Matt and Josh, spoke of attending the Summer Olympics in Beijing and having an affinity for women’s beach volleyball. “We went to the Olympics — women’s beach volleyball, one of my favorite sports,” he said.
The former presidential hopeful quickly realized the weirdness and explained, “For the sports, of course.”
The story culminated in cameras pointing at Romney and Romney nudging his wife on why he was stirring such a media interest at the Olympics. Soon Romney’s wife pointed behind him and they saw the real reason for the flashbulbs: Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant was in the row behind them.
He concluded, “I know it’s time for me to get off the stage.”
Ridge, meanwhile, spoke of life minus a driver. Shortly after he was without a driver, he was home one day. His children took a car; his wife took a car. “I wanted to go somewhere and there was no way to get there,” he said.
Soon he borrowed a car from his son, who gave him a brief lecture that included, “Be careful where you park.”
The land of ‘Minnesota Nice’
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was nothing if not “nice” Tuesday night on the convention floor as she spoke of the Twin Cities sentiment people can’t seem to stop talking about.
“Welcome to the land of Minnesota Nice,” she began congenially (or nicely). “Minnesota Nice is not just a saying,” she said. “We really are nice here. We’re friendly, happy people.” Toward the end of her remarks she gushed more about nice, saying, “We’re a really nice state that loves you.”
Even former Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Ridge wanted in on the nice action, even while he appeared astonished by it. “Is everyone in the Minneapolis area always this nice?” he asked a ballroom full of Minnesotans at a delegation breakfast Wednesday morning.
Ridge said he was told niceness is in the DNA here.
That afternoon at an unrelated Creative Coalition-sponsored lunch on mental illness in downtown Minneapolis, Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) spoke not of nice per se, but of the whole state being on an altogether different plane.
“Those of you who weren’t fortunate to be born here, welcome to God’s country,” he said.
Overheard: Man speaks of a casual delegate dress code
If you spot delegates dressing as though they’re headed for the Mall of America, it is because some have been instructed to dress down.
In the St. Paul Grill this week, a hostess greeted a male delegate dressed in a short-sleeved golf shirt and khaki pants by strongly complimenting his attire.
The delegate lamented, “It’s so ridiculous, but they told us protesters would be targeting people in business attire.”
Sighting: Ron Reagan dines at the Courtyard Marriott
Ron Reagan, the liberal son of the late President Ronald Reagan, was seen dining at the Courtyard Marriott restaurant in Bloomington, Minn., with a male companion early Tuesday morning.
Fox News’s Bill O’ has a bodyguard
Fox News’s conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly has had a bodyguard for both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention. O’Reilly was spotted walking from the Fox News building into the Pepsi Center in Denver with a large-sized male guard with a stern face.
O’Reilly last week had been referring to some convention protesters as “nut jobs” on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” from Denver. But that was not the reason for protection.
Boston-based indie rappers East Coast Avengers recently released a single called “Kill Bill O’Reilly,” with hardcore lyrics about hurting the host.
A Fox News spokesman declined to comment on security matters or say how long the host will continue to get paid protection.
Lawmakers to avoid men’s room as convention hot spot
The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport men’s room where Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was busted for soliciting sex has attracted prurient-minded tourists. But GOP lawmakers attending the convention won’t likely be among them.
“Is it marked?” asked Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), turning bright red. “I don’t want to get close to it.”
Paul Hogan, the airport’s public affairs director, said he hopes interest will wane, adding, “Right after the arrest we had a number of instances where people were stopping and taking pictures of the restroom, but we’re hoping we can all move past that.”
Another Idaho GOP lawmaker, Rep. Bill Sali, said, “I’ve been in several of the bathrooms … I don’t know what the one is.”
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio): “I won’t be checking it out.”
Rep. John Kline (R), who represents the Minneapolis suburbs: “I may stumble into it someday.”
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), turning red: “I’m married to a wonderful lady. Why would I want to go there?”
‘Holy Toledo,’ aide exclaims to Ridge
A female aide to former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge offered him high praise while riding down an escalator of a St. Paul hotel Wednesday morning after Ridge delivered a rousing speech praising Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and battering Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
“Holy Toledo, you’ve got to do that tomorrow night!” the aide gushed, telling him, “Don’t listen” to anyone who says differently. Ridge is scheduled to give a convention floor speech Thursday night.