Reagan, Goldwater Among GOP Delegates' Heroes

When asked about their political heroes, RNC delegates in Tampa mentioned people like Ronald Reagan, Susan B. Anthony and Ron Paul. But none mentioned Mitt Romney

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This week in Tampa, NPR's Jeff Brady got the chance to wander the convention hall, talking with delegates. He asked them a simple question: Who are your political heroes?

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: There's no question who's number one on most lists at this convention. LaDonna Ryggs of Spartanburg, South Carolina, seemed to speak for everyone.

LADONNA RYGGS: My favorite Republican is certainly Ronald Reagan and is the one that was in my lifetime and a strong conservative and someone that I think people can look up to because of his optimism and his belief in the exceptionalism of his country.

BRADY: At a convention designed to appeal to women voters, Eileen Sobjack from Custer, Washington, was right on message.

EILEN SOBJACK: The women, like Susan B. Anthony, and other women who were the suffragists, they were Republican. And they gave so much and sacrificed so much for us, as women, to have the vote. And they're just great role models of mine.

BRADY: At this convention, a few delegates named someone still involved in public life as their political hero.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul.

BRADY: In that group chanting Ron Paul is Jeffery Larson of Webster, Texas. He hopes Ron Paul's libertarian-style beliefs will become a model for the Republican Party as a whole.

JEFFREY LARSON: Certainly, you know, going back a few years before that, Barry Goldwater with the same thing.

BRADY: Certainly, you know, going back a few years before that, Barry Goldwater with the same thing.

BRADY: Over at the West Virginia delegation, David Tyson also has a current politician on his list.

DAVID TYSON: One of my political heroes would be John McCain, Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt, because those are men I would consider real Republicans, some from the past, some from the present. But they are the people that made me a Republican.

BRADY: When you say they're real Republicans, what does that mean to you?

TYSON: They're free thinkers. They think that government is not the answer.

BRADY: At the convention, not one delegate we asked said that Mitt Romney is their political hero, but only because they say he hasn't had time to secure that title yet. Sandra Bailey-Simmons is a delegate from Loranger, Louisiana.

SANDRA BAILEY-SIMMONS: I'd not heard of Mitt Romney, you know, until the presidential election came up - of course, I hadn't because he's not from anywheres near from where I'm from and all that. So, to me it takes time to prove yourself being a hero. And I think he needs that time and he needs to be allowed to be given that time and I'm waiting to see, you know. But right now, I couldn't call him my hero, but I can call him my candidate.

BRADY: Bailey-Simmons says she is an activist for prayer in schools in Louisiana. And while she doesn't share Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, she says she admires his principles and how he raised his children. She sees some similarities with Ronald Reagan. And if Romney is elected and follows through with what he's saying now, she says he has a good chance of joining her list of political heroes.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tampa.

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