By Cynthia Ruccia, Special to The Stiletto Blog

Wow … flying to St. Paul, MN, for the Republican National Convention. I still feel like I’ve fallen down that rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland” and the world is upside down.

Honestly, when 2008 started, I had a whole set of New Year’s resolutions just like everyone else, and going to the RNC as a credentialed guest was most definitely not on my list!Unlike my trip to Denver for the Democratic National Convention last week, there were no tears streaming down my face. I was really excited to join other Hillary Clinton supporters at the convention, and to get to know them. Also, two other members of The New Agenda were there, and I couldn’t wait to meet them. Almost like a sorority!

The ambiance at the RNC was completely different than the DNC. First, according to the bylaws of the Republican Party there were probably half the number of delegates. Also, I had been fighting some of these people for years as a fierce Democratic partisan, and kept bumping into folks I once thought I loathed.

Well, I now only loathe purveyors of sexism, so I made the necessary mental and emotional adjustments to accommodate my personal paradigm shift. (Though I must say that seeing that Neanderthal, John Bolton, the former Ambassador to the U.N., at my hotel every 10 minutes didn’t change my mind about him. But tell you what, he sure seemed to be having a great time!)

The first day I met up with another New Agenda co-founder, Jennifer Lee, a Hillary Clinton campaign worker from L.A., and it was like meeting a sister. We were so much on the same page, it was frightening. We bummed around together for the rest of our time in Denver.

Our first duty was to join other Clinton supporters who are voting for the McCain-Palin ticket at the Xcel Center for a press conference (video) organized by Citizens for McCain, an official campaign organ for people like us being run by Democrats and Independents. Since the DNC ended – or as AK Gov. Sarah Palin put it, “those Styrofoam Greek columns” were “hauled back to some studio lot” – more than 50,000 Democrats and Independents have joined up online.

The media continue to insist that we don’t exist. How they can ignore this story is beyond me.

So we’re holding this press conference on Tuesday, September 2nd to try to get our story out, despite the indifference – and, yes, sometimes hostility – of the media. Jennifer and I were joined by McCain campaign co-chair Carly Fiorina; Mark Erwin, who was appointed to the OPEC Board of Directors by President Clinton in 1997; John Coale, a trial lawyer and fundraiser for both Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as as John Kerry; Brian Golden, Iraq War veteran and former MA state representative; and Silverio “Silver” Salazar, a community activist from Pueblo – and a member of the Salazar family, a political powerhouse in CO. It was great to be in such illustrious company (video).

This time, Debbie Bartosevich couldn’t make it. Just like the rest of us, she has been threatened over and over again and she said she needed to take a step back for a moment as the incoming fire towards her and her family has been intense. Every time I tell journalists about this aspect of the story, the death threats, they look at me in utter disbelief and think that I am nuts for saying it. Is someone going to have to be killed for them to take this seriously? I shudder at the thought.

After the press conference, Jennifer and I wandered around the Xcel Center just taking it all in. This Republican crowd was much more conservatively dressed than the Democrats, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t enjoying themselves. It was like one big family reunion – actually, both conventions had that vibe. It’s just that I wasn’t all that familiar with this family. But everyone treated us really well – with one notable exception: Time magazine columnist Joe Klein.

You remember him – he wrote that hatchet job, “Primary Colors,” about Bill Clinton. Well, he and I go way back. When I was a Congressional candidate in Ohio’s 12th district Klein had written a puff piece about my opponent, John Kasich, for The New Yorker. It was in the middle of the reace, and he hadn’t even bothered to contact my campaign for our side of the story. So, I called him up to chat about it and he screamed at me and hung up the phone.

Nice guy.

Well, I believe in second chances so when I spotted him on the convention floor I thought it was my big chance to get right with him. When Jennifer and I approached him, he seemed pleased to be recognized – and he even remembered (or so he said) our conversation from so long ago. But when we told him we were Hillary supporters voting for McCain, he got an  ugly look on his face and screamed, “You people are out of your friggin’ minds!,” and stormed off.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I was tired, and I needed my beauty rest to face what would turn out to be an extraordinary day on Wednesday. So after listening to a few speeches (the R’s and the D’s are pretty well matched when it comes to giving one boring speech after the other), we packed it in and went back to the hotel.

Wednesday was a gorgeous day – the sunny, warm, crisp Minnesota air of the last days of summer. Jennifer and I headed to the Hilton, where the main nerve center for the McCain campaign was set up. We needed to get our credentials for the Xcel Center as we had a full day of media interviews ahead of us.

As we walked into the hotel, the first person we ran into was Sen. Joe Lieberman, who had given a heroic speech the night before, which I had watched on TV in my hotel room. He was in the middle of a conversation with former New York Sen. Al D’Amato, but being my bold self, I just butted right in. Sen. Lieberman and I met a few months back, and he had given me some very good counsel on what to expect as a Democrat supporting McCain. It was great to chat with him again. The day was starting off really well.

We next ran into Jamie Brazil and his intern, Bernie Zipprich, who are leading the charge for Citizen’s for McCain, and they had our passes. Guess who was standing alongside them? Lady Lynn Rothschild!

Many of us have who belong to various groups of Hillary supporters who will not vote for Obama have written articles, given speeches and gone on TV to explain our movement but have not met in the flesh. So when we finally do meet, there is a shiver of recognition and we run to hug each other. And so it was with Lynn. She had brought her adorable son, Jake, with her (he’s entering his sophomore year at Penn).

We also met up with Elaine Lafferty a former editor of Ms and Time magazines, another Hillary refugee going over to the McCain side.

As we proceeded to the RNC main office, chatting away about getting to see history being made that night with Palin’s speech, in walks Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy. They came in so quietly to thank everyone for their hard work. No fanfare, just a heartfelt thank you, shaking every person’s hand who was there. And then they were gone.

So Jennifer and I spent the rest of the day talking our heads off to the media, one interview after the other – TV, radio, print. My mother always said I talked too much. Well, it sure comes in handy sometimes!

As everyone was waiting for Palin’s speech, you could just feel the electricity building. Though Carly Fiorina invited Jennifer and I to sit in her skybox, we staked out front row seats. Just as we were getting settled, I got a call from CNN’s Dana Bash to come down to the main floor for an interview this exotic Hillary supporter from OH voting for McCain.

Now Dana is a very nice lady, and I believe she’s been one of the fairest reporters at CNN. And the interview itself went well. But afterwards, according to my son who was watching the convention at home on TV, the CNN panel spent 10 minutes just trashing me and other women who think as I do.  

So be it. But what really ticks me off is that the media continue to act as though we are an anomaly, that Hillary supporters are on the Obama train. Well, it ain’t true! And when Obama loses, they’ll scratch their heads trying to figure it out when we’ve been trying to tell them all along that we McCain Democrats are real!

Once the CNN interview was done, I went to Fiorina’s skybox to watch former NYC Mayer Rudy Giuliani’s speech. Giuliani brought down the house. Honestly, I wasn’t ever a fan of his. But in person, he was spectacular. While he was getting the crowd fired up, our skybox was filling up with Democrats supporting McCain.

Diane Mantouvalos from Just Say No Deal was there for the Big Speech. I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I believe she is a political force to be reckoned with, and will be one of the leaders to emerge from this experience with a big political future. You know who else shared our skybox?  Paul Mitchell mogul John Paul DeJoria and his wife, major supporters of the Democratic Party in Austin, TX, and big Hillary supporters.

Where were the reporters then? The skybox was packed with people who supposedly don’t exist – and they were about to scream their heads off for the next 40 minutes!

And then … Henry Kissinger plopped down right next to Jennifer and me. Back in Alice’s Wonderland again! He’s aged, to be sure, but his eyes still sparkle.

Sarah Palin – what can I say? She won over everyone in the arena and everyone in our our booth brimming with Democrats. The media can say what it wants, but this lady connects with people. Trust me: She will win many hearts and minds in the weeks to come.

We have waited 24 years to have another woman on a major party presidential ticket. Palin is awesome. And Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, told me that they will attack every instance of sexism that’s hurled her way. He said it is disgraceful, and the McCain campaign will not put up with it!

Too bad that the Democratic Party is spineless. It takes a Republican, apparently, to fight sexism. Who knew?

Although I had to say goodbye to my friends and head home to OH without seeing McCain’s speech, I was filled with joy. Women are going to make progress after all.

About Cynthia Ruccia:  Cynthia Ruccia last wrote for The Stiletto Blog from the Democratic National Convention. She is a co-founder of Women for Fair Politics. She has been a Democrat for 40 years. She ran for Congress in 1994 and 1996, and for the Ohio House in 1998. She was a member of the Franklin County Democratic Party Executive and Central Committees for 10 years. She is also the author of “Wanna Win, a Democratic Guide to Fundraising,” and travels around the country holding fundraising seminars for Democratic candidates, county party chairs and campaign workers. She has been married to Nick Ruccia for 35 years, and they have two sons, Daniel, 25, and Michael, 19.

Note: The Stiletto Blog was chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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