“It is!” Kaufman responded.
This week, Kaufman is having the time of his life.
The noted Beltway influence peddler, Republican National Committeeman, former White House political director and adviser to President George H.W. Bush has served as a counselor to Republican presidential nominee Romney. For the past year, Kaufman also has served as the Romney campaign’s comic relief. A Kaufman-themed calendar has hung on the walls of Romney headquarters, and two halves of his trim mustache and wire-frame glasses have slid together with the office’s elevator doors to form his grinning face. At the convention, campaign aides and some former governors are wearing a button with Kaufman’s visage above the word “Tamper,” a reference to his Boston-accented rendition of Tampa.
On Tuesday, he was given the honor of announcing Massachusetts’s support of Romney during the roll call on the convention floor. It is upstairs every night, though, where Kaufman is really enjoying the show.
On Wednesday night, Kaufman had a cellophane-wrapped cigar in the breast pocket of his blue shirt and, around his neck, a red tie and lanyard weighed down by a deck of cards’ worth of VIP passes. He swirled a glass of amber liquid in a clear plastic cup as he meandered around a small area outside the Republican Governors Association’s makeshift bar and a terrace set aside for Romney’s Founding Members donors. He said, “Good, good,” and rubbed random shoulders. As a muted television above the cigar bar’s door showed Condoleezza Rice delivering her speech, Kaufman walked past the two young women checking Kaufman-issued passes to the cigar bar — they read “Churchill Lounge” and featured Winston Churchill’s stogie-chomping face.
Inside, it was dark and hushed. An illuminated vitrine offered a dozen brands of cigars to the large men who reclined on a sofa, their broad ties hanging over their bellies. The guests discussed George W. Bush and helped themselves to booze at a small bar. (“All we have is Maker’s Mark,” said one aide managing the room. “And we’ve had, like, three women in there, and they have all complained about the drink selection.”) Two televisions showed the speeches that some of the men preferred to watch through a window onto the convention floor. Kaufman stood in the middle of the room holding court.
Lots of people wanted to get into Kaufman’s cigar bar.
Two reporters from major national newspapers tried to get in.
“It’s not my call,” Kaufman said to one of the women.
“It’s precisely your call,” she protested.
Another reporter tried his luck.