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Damon Political Report

2012 GOP Convention:

Nevada alternate delegate compares national conventions past and present

GOP Convention: Aug. 27, 2012

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus speaks to delegates during an abbreviated session the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012. Launch slideshow »

TAMPA, Fla.— For Nevada politico Patty Cafferata, the intrigue, plotting and wariness among opposing factions at a national convention is nothing new.

Cafferata has been attending conventions since 1956, when, at the age of 15, she accompanied her parents to see Dwight D. Eisenhower accept the Republican nomination.

"Talk about different," Cafferata said. "Then, they held a receiving line, and you could literally shake Eisenhower's hand. Now, you have to have some kind of inside connection to get anywhere close to the candidate."

Forget inside connections. Security is so tight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum that participants must pass through multiple perimeter gates, metal detectors and bag checks under the gaze of hundreds of police officers.

"I was sniffed by five dogs going in yesterday," Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said.

Cafferata, of Reno, is an alternate delegate who supports Mitt Romney. The delegation, however, is controlled by Ron Paul supporters, who captured 22 of the 28 delegate spots.

Such a split isn't uncommon for Cafferata either.

In 1976, she was among delegates supporting Ronald Reagan, who launched a primary challenge against President Gerald Ford. Reagan won the Nevada delegation, meaning the ultimate nominee had only two or three delegates from the Silver State.

"We were challenging a sitting president," she said. "But we worked out a deal beforehand to give Frank Fahrenkopf and Bob List to Ford."

Fahrenkopf went on to become RNC chairman, and List became governor of Nevada.

"Back then, they were the moderate Republicans and we were the conservatives," Cafferata said, noting the irony that she is now seen as the moderate for backing Romney.

That kind of horse trading is absent from the delegation this year, she said.

"What are we (Romney's delegates) going to negotiate?" she said. "They won. They are in charge."

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