By Mannix Porterfield
Coal miners hats adorning the heads of West Virginia’s delegation proved to be a smash hit among other delegates at the National Republican Convention in Tampa.
Every time a West Virginian wandered onto the floor, out in the corridor of the cramped arena, either a fellow delegate, or a newshound, stopped to inquire about the black hats or beg for an interview.
“They really got everyone’s attention last night,” said Karen McCoy of Droop Mountain, in Pocahontas County, attending her second national convention.
“Every time we would go out into the hall, which wasn’t often, there was always a reporter in our face, or someone, wanting to take pictures, or asking questions.”
News reporters are accustomed to seeing outlandish hats and other attire at a political convention.
But the miners’ hats seemed to arouse the curiosity of all non-West Virginians.
West Virginia delegates weren’t just making a fashion statement, either, McCoy pointed out Wednesday.
The hats symbolized the state’s dissent with the Obama administration over the stringent enforcement of clean air and water standards, blamed by industry and political leaders alike for a massive turndown in coal. One delegate said some 2,200 miners in her home county of Boone have been laid off in recent months.
“Everybody walking around comes by and wants to take pictures of us,” McCoy said.
McCoy views the delegates as ambassadors for the besieged industry, but the idea of wearing the hats wasn’t unique to West Virginia’s contingent, however.
Wyoming likewise is a major producer and delegates from that western state also wanted to wear hats but were told not to do so.
“We heard they asked to wear hats with lights, but ended up wearing ball caps that said, ‘We love coal,’” McCoy said.
“I think we have sent a message and that’s what we wanted to do.”
McCoy hoped to track down one of her political heroes, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, at the New York delegation.
“So many famous people have walked by,” she said. “Last night, I saw Herman Cain there.”
McCoy attended her first convention in 2004, when President George W. Bush was nominated for a second term.
“This is just as great as the last one,” she said. “It’s wonderful.
“It’s very organized, people are wonderful. Everything is just awesome, if you love politics.”
McCoy was impressed with how Ann Romney conducted herself in the Tuesday night key address, summarizing her life with presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“I thought she did a fabulous job getting up the message about how compassionate her husband is,” McCoy said.
To McCoy, the message was that Romney isn’t merely a businessman but a family leader.
“He’s just like the rest of us,” the delegate said.
“He has children, grandchildren. What he has he built from the bottom up. He’s normal and very compassionate and loyal and cares about people.”
Why does she think Romney is the better choice in the November sweepstakes?
“He would be better because he has built things from the bottom up,” she said.
“He knows what it means to be without jobs and he’s all about getting jobs for this country. He’s for coal mining, and we all know what Obama has done to that. That, in itself, is a big plus for West Virginia.”
Like other women in the delegation, McCoy found it laughable that some Democratic operatives have sought to portray the GOP as anti-female, or a party for whites only. She pointed to the vast array of women serving as delegates and special speakers, such as Mayor Mia Love of Sarasota Springs, Utah, and a host of Hispanics holding key government positions around the country.
Besides the overriding issue of the economy, McCoy applauded the moral-social values of Romney, particularly the affirmation that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as opposed to same-sex unions embraced by the Democrats.
Beyond the routine of nominating a president, and gearing up for the two-month campaign, McCoy said a convention affords delegates fun that only the politically-savvy would enjoy.
“It’s just fabulous,” she said. “If you like politics, this is the place to be.”
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