About 15 local Republicans gathered Aug. 28 at Pack's Tavern in downtown Asheville to watch the opening night of their party's national convention in Tampa. The group chatted over beers about politics and watched prime-time speeches by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Ann Romney and others.
Organizer Matt Hoagland, chair of the Buncombe County Young Republicans group, wanted to rally supporters together in a fun, informal way.
"It's a way for us to get together in a non–serious atmosphere. It's a great opportunity to have beers and take it easy," said Hoagland, who also manages the campaign of Statehouse Rep. Tim Moffitt.
Earlier in the day, Mitt Romney, a businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, was officially nominated at the convention to represent the party and run against Democratic incumbent, President Barack Obama. Romney's campaign opened an office in Asheville earlier this year. It's one of 19 he has across North Carolina, which is in "a dead heat" between the two men, according to a recent CNN/Time Magazine/ORC International poll.
Obama narrowly won the state four years ago against Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. Obama also has a campaign office in Asheville — one of 49 across the state. Democrats will hold their national convention in Charlotte starting Sept. 4, and hundreds of locals are planning to attend.
But at Pack's Tavern, Hoagland said he thinks there's a lot of local support for the Romney candidacy.
Alluding to the tough economy and Romney's successful business background as the founder of an investment firm, Hoagland praised him as "ideal for taking care of the situation at hand" and called him "a virtuoso of taking failed businesses over and making them successful."
However, Hoagland added that "Romney carries around a stigma of being a moderate, or a flip-flopper, whether it's true or not."
He said he thinks Romney's recent decision to nominate Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as the candidate for vice president will help counter that perception.
"Ryan rounds out the ticket. … people are more excited," Hoagland said. "Substantively, it says he'll surround himself with people who are up to the task."
However, given that registered Democrats in Buncombe County far outnumber Republicans, Hoagland was realistic about Romney's chances of carrying the county.
"Buncombe County is probably going to vote for Obama, but local Republicans are excited about Romney," he said.
Earlier that day, 11th District Congressional Candidate Mark Meadows addressed the convention. For coverage of his speech and dispatches from local delegates who are in Tampa, click here.