On Tuesday (Aug. 28) — a day later than planned, thanks to Hurricane Isaac — the Republican National Convention launches in Tampa, Fla., as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to be officially tapped as the GOP’s presidential contender in November.
Conventions may lack the high drama and suspense of decades past, but vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s electrifying speech at the 2008 RNC showed that news can still be made. And if it is, Fox News Channel’s “The Five” will be on hand to talk about it.
The weekday afternoon hour launched last summer as a temporary replacement for Glenn Beck’s show. It performed well enough to earn a permanent berth and has since become one of the cablenet’s top-rated shows.
With financial expert Eric Bolling in the center chair, the freewheeling round-table discussion also features (in different configurations) Democratic strategist Bob Beckel, political analyst Juan Williams, legal analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle, conservative commentator Andrea Tantaros and the host of FNC’s late-night show “Red Eye,” Greg Gutfeld.
Also on hand is Dana Perino, who left politics at the end of George W. Bush’s second term in office, during which she served as his last press secretary starting in September 2007.
“It’s a great honor,” Perino tells Zap2it of going to Tampa. “I’ve never gone to a convention on that side of things.”
Beckel, the uninhibited liberal voice on “The Five,” often feels outnumbered at the table. Add in a convention hall stuffed with Republicans, and that feeling is bound to intensify.
As to how Beckel may react, Perino says, “I think he will be so bowled over by the good will that is sent his way by the delegates there. One of the things that people will say to me is, ‘How in the world do you put up with Bob Beckel?’ They sure do love him.
“I actually think he’s going to love it. He’s going to be one of the stars of the whole Republican convention.”
With the victory of Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz in the recent Texas GOP primary to choose a Senate candidate, the anti-tax, pro-limited-government movement appears to have defied critics who declared it dead. This development has caught Perino’s attention.
“I want to see for myself how the party is evolving,” she says. “My hunch is, there’s a lot more diversity in the Republican Party over the last three or four years, with the absorption of the Tea Party principles into a lot of regular Republican convention goers. It will be interesting to see how it all comes together.”
On “The Five,” Perino sits next to Gutfeld, whose idiosyncratic take on political commentary – featuring tortured, pop-culture-laden metaphors and occasionally unicorns – confused and concerned her a little at first. But over time, she warmed up to him, even engaging in a war for Twitter followers over the summer (she won easily).
“Greg Gutfeld is my personal entertainment system,” she says. “He’s the big brother I never had nor wanted.”
In addition, the RNC is in Tampa, the setting for the hit male stripper movie “Magic Mike,” a frequent topic of comedic conversation on “Red Eye.”
“That’s the one thing Greg told me,” Perino says, “that maybe we can go visit all the sites. I mean, he’s like the kid about whom your mom and dad said, ‘You don’t want to be hanging around with that kid, do you?’ But you can’t help yourself, and you know that you’re going to get in trouble hanging out with him, but you can’t make yourself sit down. You have to go.”
Gutfeld also comes up with nicknames for Perino when he does the show’s introductions, such as “America’s bunny slipper.”
“There was this guy a couple of months ago,” recalls Perino, “and he was walking across the street with his wife. I was walking to work as well. I have a sparkly backpack, and I don’t know if that’s how he recognized me, but he said, ‘Oh, you’re America’s charm bracelet!’ “
After years working in PR and as a political spokeswoman, Perino now has a daily forum to express her own views on topics in the news, saying, “(As a former press secretary), the first few times I was asked on ‘The Five,’ ‘What do you think about that?’ I would start to explain what other people think about that. Now I’m much more comfortable.”
Perino has introduced “The Five” viewers to her new Vizsla puppy, Jasper, but she takes the greatest pride in the other member of her family: her husband, British businessman Peter McMahon.
“My highest achievement,” she says, “and my best accomplishment, and my most cherished accomplishment, is my marriage. Marriages are difficult to maintain anyway, regardless of a lot of external pressures.
“I met my husband on an airplane. I didn’t expect to meet and fall in love with this British guy who is 18 years older than me and lived in England, but it happened.”