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Maryland group's early risers get big-name surprise

The Baltimore Sun

St. Paul, MINN. - Here's something else the early bird gets: a big-name convention guest speaker.

Maryland delegates were supposed to be on their own yesterday morning, with no special guests for their daily breakfast. Some delegates headed to a Minneapolis convention center to pack relief supplies for hurricane victims. Others rose early to walk to a cafe near their hotel that had been turned over to MSNBC's popular Morning Joe show.

Marylanders were snapping photos with show guests streaming in at 6 a.m. yesterday when delegation chairman Donald E. Murphy - who led the excursion - came up with an idea. Why not ask Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the most in-demand John McCain surrogates and a runner-up for the veepstakes, to stop by the hotel?

Murphy, who met Pawlenty while both were campaigning for McCain during the Michigan primary, reintroduced himself, and quickly convinced the governor to squeeze a 10-minute address to Marylanders into his morning schedule.

But with just a few delegates streaming into the breakfast room minutes before Pawlenty's arrival, Murphy had to scramble to rouse sleepy delegates from their hotel beds to create an acceptably sized audience.

Pawlenty, a Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, called the Maryland delegation "kindred spirits."

"Please don't quit," he told them. "Ideas matter. Persistence matters."

Republicans in Democratic states must offer "hopeful, optimistic leadership," Pawlenty said, arguing that a successful agenda could be built around issues that show voters they are getting good value for tax dollars spent on transportation, health care and other services.

"We have to be the party of Sam's Club," he said, and not "just the country club."

Some delegates and guests said they planned to return today, having learned some interesting lessons at the Keys Cafe in St. Paul, the site of the Morning Joe set this week.

Lesson 1: It's easy to get photographs with such figures as Rudolph Giuliani, Chris Matthews and Kay Bailey Hutchison. All you have to do is ask.

Lesson 2: National television figures can cop an attitude. "What a bunch of arrogant idiots," wrote Dave Wissing, a Howard County Republican activist, in his Hedgehog Report blog. "During the commercial break, they all demanded a Starbuck's coffee instead of drinking the coffee from the cafe. So the gopher had to run out and get them a coffee."

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