At four in the morning, the Virginians were still there in the hotel after beer and chanting the same old Rockefeller hate songs. They laughed now and then, but the laughs were too loud to be convincing. There folks were upset about George Bush. Once again, they said, the Eastern Establishment had done them in.
A few miles away in another Detroit suburb, the delegates from the District of Columbia were celebrating. Bush was their man from the beginning -- for any office he wanted -- and now that Ronald Reagan had ended a mind-reeling night of speculation by tabbing him for vice president, the Washingtonians were eager to take some credit. We did it, they said. We helped get him the nod; we pushed him and we made the buttons and the placards and we got him over the top.
For many of the delegates of Maryland, huddled in the pool of the Dearborn Holiday Inn, the selection of George Bush was gratifying, but not as important as how it was done. They talked about how Bob Bauman listened in on the telephone conversation Jessee Helms had with Reagan and came running back saying, "It's gonna be Ford." They talked about how Marjorie Holt got to see Reagan in his Detroit Plaza suite late that night and was among the first to learn that it was Bush.
There was one real story at this Republican convention, and, when it came, the delegates from Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland responded totally in character. The True Believers of Virginia were concerned with ideology. The status-seeking Washingtonians thirsted for recognition. The veteran pols of Maryland reveled in the day-long gossiping and word-spreading and backroom dealings.
It was vintage 1964 at the Troy Hilton, were the Virginians -- who had spearheaded the unsuccessful drive to make conservative Jack Kemp the vice presidential nominee -- began to make the painful but inevitable adjustment to the nomination of a man many of them neither trust nor respect: George Bush.
Bush represented everything they found distasteful in their own party -- the Trilateral Commission, the Eastern Establishment, the moderate positions on ERA and abortion. He reminded them of Nelson Rockefeller, so much so that they sat there singing the old anti-Rocky war chants: Rockfeller's not for me He is not for GOP He is for the Warfare State And he's had more than one mate .
Soon they would have to say only good things about the Reagan-Bush ticket but now was the time for them to release the doubt, fear and anger they felt.
"No matter which man we work our hearts out for and run ourselves bankrupt for," said Helen Marie Taylor, an alternate delegate from Richmond, "it always seems that in November David Rockefeller wins."
Taylor, a wealthy matron who calls herself "a soldier in the Judeo-Christian movement," said the Bush nomination is devastating to the new evangelical Republicans. They are the ones who flocked to the party and to Reagan this year largely because of his stand against the ERA and for an antiabortion constitutional amendment -- precisely the issues on which George Bush disagrees with them.
"These people are not old party political hacks and they don't roll with the punches the way the old political pros do," Taylor said. "We were given assurances the governor would choose someone consistent with the positions he has taken. And now . . . a whole new crew has moved in on our man."
The Virginians were reluctant to criticize Reagan, the keeper of their conservative dreams since 1964. But they talked so incessantly about Jack Kemp that they left the impression he, not Reagan, was their new idol, the man they would turn to over the next decade.
"I'm disappointed because I think Reagan passed up the one politician in the last four years who has come up with new ideas for solving problems," said Raymond LaJeunesse Jr. of Arlington, one of the 31 Virginia delegates who preferred Kemp over Bush.
In the minds of the New Right faithful, Kemp was eliminated from the running by the Eastern Establishment, particularly the press. Said delegate E. David Foreman of Springfield: "The media never said it was anybody but Bush from the beginning. All you heard was Bush, Bush, Bush.I'm not saying the media selected the vice president, but it did a pretty good job of convincing some people."
When the 28 delegates and alternates from the District of Columbia gathered for their daily caucus Wednesday morning -- the day the vice presidential nominee was to be chosen they brought with them sharp memories of the big demonostration Jack Kemp supporters had put on the night before on the convention floor.
It was an impressive demonstration, they thought, and one that should be matched that night when their choice, George Bush, would deliver his speech. Arthur Fletcher, the delegateion chairman, dispatched Sam Jackson and Mel Burton to get some Bush placards printed up, possibly at a quickie printers across the river in Canada. It was done.
So there was the D.C. delegation, placards and buttons at the ready, sitting on the convention floor Wednesday night when word spread that Gerald Ford might be nosing out Bush as the vice presidential nominee. "The rumors," said the Rev. Jerry Moore, "were very depressing."
The District delegates had nothing against Jerry Ford -- many of them were Ford delegates at Kansas City in 1976 -- but they had spent their time and money on Bush and they were not thrilled at the idea of him getting shunted aside. When Reagan finally paid his midnight visit to the Joe Louis Arena and announced that Bush was the man, no delegation cheered louder or waved the placards more proudly than the District of Columbia.
"We did it, we got him the nomination," said Sam Jackson, without a blush of modesty. "We're the ones who got the placards and buttons made." Turning to a reporter who had written an article about the D.C. delegation's apparent lack of clout at the convention, Jackson added: "And you said we didn't have any power!"
Jackson's enthusiasm was shared unanimously by his District colleagues. Moore said Bush's nomination "showed that a small but hardworking delegation can really make a distinctive contribution." Delegate Carol Schwartz, a school board member back in Washington, said: "Now we have accomplished everything here we wanted."
Rockwood (Adam) Foster said that a Reagan-Bush ticket would mend the wounds in the local Republican party, which had split somewhat acrimoniously along Reagan-Bush lines. "It's a good strong ticket," said Foster. "It has meaning for the split in the party. The Rebuild people [who now run the GOP in the District] tended to be Reagan people and the delegates were for Bush. Everybody wins."
Foster said the District Republicans -- including influential businessmen such as Oliver Carr Jr. and lawyer Steve Danzansky -- will find even greater rewards should Reagan capture the White House in November. Said Foster, his voice eventually trailing off, "If we don't have some clout with the new administration now . . ."
For Maryland's two Republican congressmen and some of the other veteran pols in the state's 30-member delegation, the unremitting action Wednesday night was the shot of adrenaline they longed for at a convention that had been sleep-inspiring for two days.
Some of them would stay up until dawn the next morning, lounging at their hotel pool in Dearborn, recalling the day's events and their role in them.
For much of the night, Rep. Bob Bauman had been one of the key convention-floor messangers of the word that Ford was going to be the vice presidential nominee.
At one point that night, Bauman retreated to a trailer in the back of the arena where Jesse Helms, the grand old man of the New Right, was talking on the telephone to Ronald Reagan, whose subalterns at that moment were negotiating with Jerry Ford's men. Bauman stood next to the senator and was allowed to eavesdrop on the conversation.
When he returned to the Maryland delegation's seats, according to Rep. Marjorie Holt, "He told me, 'It's going to be Ford.'" Bauman told a lot of people that. He was one of the spreaders of the word to reporters, although no one has accused him of being the man whom Dan Rather called "the best source I've had all day."
It was Holt, who, among the Maryland delegates, first got the true story from Reagan. She was one of four convention delegates chosen to leave the arena after Reagan's nomination to formally tell the former California governor that he had been selected. At a meeting with Reagan on the 69th floor of the Detroit Plaza hotel, Holt asked Reagan why he had not chosen Ford.
"He said there were just too many concessions he had to make and he wasn't willing to do it," Holt recalled.
For Holt and former U.S. senator Glenn Beall, the end result of the hectic night -- Bush's selection -- was just fine. "This is one of the best coattail tickets we've had in a long time," said Beall, who ran Bush's unsuccessful Maryland primary campaign.
Said Holt, who is seeking reelection from Maryland's 4th Congressional District: "It'll be a strong ticket for other candidates."
Bauman was less than ecstatic. "I'm happy, I'll support it," was his terse response to questions about the Reagan-Bush ticket late Wednesday night back at the hotel. But earlier, when the Bush message first hit the convention floor, Bauman was angry. He had supported Kemp, he had pushed the Ford rumor, and all of a sudden the choice was Bush.
"He was really furious," Holt said of her colleague. "You know how Bauman gets when he's upset -- he clams up. Well, he clammed up."
One common reaction among the Maryland a half-whispered confidence: "I knew it couldn't be Ford."
State Sen. Ed Thomas, an alternate delegate was most adept at this wise posturing. Said Thomas: "When all the rumors were going around, I was saying it couldn't be Ford. It sounds like a dream ticket, but it would have created problems down the road. There would have gone to [Ford] and said, 'Mr. Ford, what would you have done.'
"And what would they do in a campaign -- call the two of them Governor Reagan and President Ford?"