"I'd like to see him get up on the stage, roll up his sleeves and say, 'Look, guys, we've got some problems we need to address,' " said 24-year-old John Schafer of La Crescenta, a UC Berkeley senior and member of the College Republicans. "Not blaming himself, but putting aside politics and saying we've got to deal with these problems."
While Schafer criticized what he called "a clear lack of direction at the present time," another college Republican was still feeling superior to the Democratic Party, whose long history of internal warfare has been fairly well quelled this year.
"There's a big difference between Republicans being in disarray and Democrats being in disarray," said Phillip Steinman, a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. "The Democratic Party is always in chaos, but if we have one minor squabble--like we've seen this past week on abortion--then everyone thinks it's a big deal. Clinton's big lead in the polls is because the Republicans haven't started campaigning."
The H & H Ranch, where 300 young Republicans like Steinman gathered Sunday night, and the convention floor, where the volunteers gathered earlier in the day, were the province of the fresh-faced.
That will not be the case with the convention itself. Under the crush of reporters and television crews, honored guests and celebrities, will be delegates who on average are middle-aged white men.
The relative blandness of the delegate pool was best demonstrated by the most common last name: Smith. And its most popular male name: John.
But up on the podium, the Republicans will show an entirely different face.
Only 73 of the delegates are Latino, but three will have featured roles within the first two days of the convention. Ninfa Laurenzo, a friend of the president's and owner of a chain of Mexican restaurants that bears her name, will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance at today's opening session. Sarah Flores, a deputy Los Angeles county supervisor, will speak tonight. Tuesday morning, the convention will hear from Jose Nino, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Although only 83 delegates are black--compared to more than 1,800 whites--three blacks will have featured roles in the first 24 hours of the convention. Fred McClure, a former legislative aide to Bush, will sing the National Anthem Monday morning, and Condoleezza Rice, a former special White House assistant for national security affairs, will speak Monday night.
The next morning, the delegates will hear from the Rev. E. V. Hill, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Los Angeles and a longtime Bush supporter.
Even a Clinton supporter is making an appearance--Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, who stood by Clinton's side on July 23 as he castigated the President in Bush's adopted hometown. Lanier was one of three Houstonians whose fund-raisers for Clinton that night raised $1 million.
There has been much hue and cry this week over the presence--to be honest, the absence--of Republican Party leaders. For starters, take the party's congressional delegation: Only 93 of the 167 Republican members of Congress saw fit to come to Houston, with dozens of others pleading the press of business at home.
For some, locked in tight races, it was impossible to pass up a week at home with constituents. Others were suspected of not wanting to risk being sighted within the tense confines of the Astrodome.
Republican governors, traditionally the leaders of their state delegations, were far more loyal, with 17 of the 20 scheduled to be in Houston. The most prominent no-show, of course, was California Gov. Pete Wilson, who did the next best thing by appearing on video before the California delegation Sunday morning.
For some of those governors, being here in Houston serves two purposes. They can demonstrate loyalty to Bush and simultaneously curry favor with delegations and Republican leaders whose support could come in handy in a future national bid.
Times staff writers Geraldine Baum, John Broder, Douglas Jehl and Jenifer Warren contributed to this story.