Editor's Note: Eric Leys, a member of the Maine Township High School District 207 board, is blogging for Patch from the RNC.
Although weather circumstances made for interesting travel to Tampa from Chicago and created an interesting first day of convention activities, the Republican National Convention is off to a great start!The Illinois delegation is staying on Sand Key in Clearwater, Florida... about 45 minutes from the convention center. Punishment for The President's home state Republicans? Actually, not. The folks from the Illinois GOP and Delegation Chairman Dan Rutherford (our State Treasurer), actually visited Tampa months ago to scout out a hotel that could accomodate our large delegation, and provide amenities to make for a comfortable stay. We are sharing the hotel with the delegation from Oregon, and between our two state's delegations, there are no other guests in the hotel!After rebooking my flight with the airline to avoid the connection in Miami on Sunday morning (it turns out many flights in and out of Miami were cancelled that day), I arrived to a rainy Tampa. On Sunday evening, the Republican National Committee held a huge welcome event for all Delegates, Alternates, and guests at Tropicana Field. The party was actually on the (covered) baseball field and it was an enormous, exciting event.Monday morning, despite almost all "Convention" events being cancelled, was our first time together as a delegation. We all got together for breakfast that featured speakers such as Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and Former Governor Jim Edgar. The audience, of course, loved both presentations. We were also fortunate to hear from our Delegation Chairman (and Romney Campaign Chairman for Illinois), State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. State Senator Kirk Dillard, who refused a recount in 2010 after his 193-vote primary loss for Governor, spoke very appropriately on the importance of party unity.While the excitement will culminate with Governor Romney's nomination acceptance speech on Thursday evening, things were well underway on Tuesday with the addresses of Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As expected, Mrs. Romney's address was a very touching portrayal of her husband and Governor Christie's very direct call-to-action had our delegation hanging on every word. Hailing from our neighbor to the north, Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker seemed to bring the house down both when he pledged Wisconsin's delegates to Mitt Romney during the roll call and when it came time for his convention hall address earlier in the afternoon. It was almost as if the crowd wouldn't let him speak they were cheering so loudly on both occasions. The Wisconsin delegation is seated directly in front of the Illinois delegation on the convention floor. I might add, for not being a "swing state", Illinois sure ended up with great seats. The delegation is seated just behind hotly contested (and home of VP-nominee Paul Ryan) Wisconsin, front-and-center, and about 100-ft away from the stage.The convention has proven a great opportunity to catch up with Republican Party friends from all around the state. Just the first couple days feels as productive as visits to a half-dozen political events and a few trips to Springfield. I'll update more as the convention progresses!