Inside the Xcel: Observations from local RNC delegates

Two RNC delegates from Southwest Minneapolis found themselves only miles away from home during the Republican National Convention (RNC) but in decidedly new territory.

“This is the Super Bowl of politics,” said first-time Minnesota delegate Juliette Jordal. “And this is fascinating to me particularly considering I haven’t been involved as certainly some of the veterans, and so I’m glad to be here.”

Both Jordal, 31, of Loring Park, and Kris Broberg, 37, of Linden Hills, earned their seats at the RNC by way of the Congressional District 5 Republican convention April 5 in Robbinsdale where both of the political newcomers gave rousing stump speeches in support of Texas Republican Ron Paul. And that’s exactly who they voted for when Minnesota’s 41 votes were cast just after midnight Sept. 4.

Jordal and Broberg were part of a rogue contingent of only a dozen delegates (six from the Minnesota delegation) to vote for Paul, a Libertarian. Well over 2,000 others were cast for the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Broberg, who was beaming after attending the Ron Paul rally at the Target Center days earlier, was absent from the floor during John McCain’s acceptance speech. He, instead, chose to meet with other Ron Paul supporters.

“Ron Paul’s speech will go down as an all-time great speech for liberty,” said Broberg while attending an event Sept. 3 at The Minneapolis Club. “McCain is better than Obama; but McCain just isn’t good enough.”

Needless to say, the majority of the capacity crowd in attendance disagreed. With the exception of a few protesters, all wholeheartedly supported McCain during his speech with chants of “U.S.A.” and “Drill, Baby, Drill.”

Despite being a minority voice, Broberg said the Minnesota delegation was “pretty tolerant” of his viewpoints and said the work done on the red-carpet floor of Xcel Center surprised him.

“It’s been better than I thought,” he said Sept. 3. “I expected [the RNC] to be a rubberstamp TV show, but it’s been very eventful.”

However, throughout the week, the Southwest delegates’ breakneck schedules were chockfull of meetings, philanthropic gatherings and some light partying. They spent a number of hours on a tour bus under the watchful eye of security and nowhere near protesters.

“This is the closest I’ll get to being on tour and being a musician,” Jordal joked. “But we have been exceptionally well insulated from protesters.
I saw a group gathered, but only at a distance, and I haven’t seen any altercations.”

On the final night of the convention, some 400 protesters and journalists were arrested. Conservative estimates put the number of protesters arrested around the Xcel Center and in Minneapolis at more than 800. Protesters were prevalent throughout the RNC, Sept. 1–4, as were police who often made use of tear gas, percussion grenades and gallons of irritants to subdue the gathered masses.

It was a stark contrast outside to inside where throngs of elated delegates were festooned with their respective state’s convention paraphernalia — Alaskans in hardhats and oil rig get-ups; Texans in requisite cowboy hats; Montanans in matching navy blue vests.

Jordal, however, sat respectfully for much of McCain’s speech alongside the rest of the Minnesota delegation at stage left.

“This is such a fascinating thing to see, and to have it end … I’m kind of sentimental,” she said. “I’ve gotten accustomed to chatting with all these fascinating people and seeing news happen and having these political debates. But next week it’ll be back to life as usual … and it will pale by comparison.”