But the money arrived in the campaign treasury as part of a three-stage rocket, the first blast occurring at a private fundraiser for John McCain ($170,000), the second and third stages from the dinner and another fundraiser for the county party and U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette. Alex Arshinkoff, the party chairman, was pleased to announce that the aggregate total for a night's work was nearly $900,000. It sounded close enough.
Despite the distant sound of the cash register, the evening was largely a laid-back affair. The Republican guests at these dress-up affairs are usually courteous, collegial and comfortable. The upbeat news in the lobby was that Obama was stupid to pick Biden. "The Democrats made it easier for us," was a the pre-game analysis of several guests. "It should have been Hillary." That overlooked, of course, last winter's expectations from Republicans that Hillary carried so much baggage - much of it stored safely in GOP computers - that she would be a pushover. Even Rudy Giuliani is whistling the pro-Clinton song, sharing the shreds of his inept political insights that proved fatal in the Republican primaries.
The headliner for the evening was Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor who is being mentioned as a possible veep candidate with McCain. A short, low-key speech is not enough to assess a potential candidate, but Pawlenty did seem to like the idea of associating McCain with Ronald Reagan, leap-frogging both Bushes - neither of whom were mentioned from the dais. McCain, Pawlenty emphasized, was "hopeful, decent and an optimist" who would privide "Reagan leadership."
Another on Republican bandwagon was the Rev. Ernie Kemppel, of the Akron Baptist Temple. In his invocation laden with political commentary, the reverend appealed to God to get involved in the presidential campaign and have a "real impact on the election." Kemppel prayerfully reminded God that now was not the time to place a novice in true leadership - God Bless the Republican Party." Tall order, I'd say.
Arshinkoff, as is his wont, topped off the formalities of the evening with an angry blast at the Beacon Journal for refusing to send a reporter to the event that might showcase the next vice president of the United States. Noting the presence of several broadcast reporters and another from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Alex challenged the crowd to guess who wasn't there. It wasn't a trick question.