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CONVENTION NOTEBOOK: Singing Senators and a Presidential Invitation

August 16, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Travis Tritt he’s not, but if Trent Lott ever gives up his day job he might have something to fall back on.

Tritt, the country heartthrob, opened the final session of the Republican convention Thursday with the national anthem, but Lott, the Senate majority leader, stole the musical part of the show.

He and three other senators stripped off their somber suit jackets to reveal star-spangled vests and launched into a three-song medley before Bob Dole and Jack Kemp gave their acceptance speeches.

Lott’s booming bass, especially on the ``oom-papa-oom-papa-oom-papa-mau-mau″ of ``Elvira″ left delegates giggling, clapping and dancing in the aisles.

Lott, of Mississippi, was joined by senators John Ashcroft of Missouri, Larry Craig of Idaho, and James Jeffords of Vermont. The quartet, called the Vocal Majority, appears regularly at Washington events.

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It’s not often that a reporter turns down an invitation from a presidential contender, but ABC’s Sam Donaldson did just that on the convention’s final night.

Dole stepped to the edge of the stage after his speech and motioned for delegates from California and Kansas to come up the steps to greet him. When security guards wouldn’t budge, Dole to went to them.

Donaldson, trying to get in the best position to shout a question at the nominee, climbed atop a wall about 12 feet above the convention floor. A small group of California delegates immediately started chanting ``Jump, Sam, jump.″ Hundreds of others joined in.

As the shouts around him grew louder, Dole looked up, saw the newsman and held out his arms, an unspoken suggestion that Dole would catch him if he jumped.

Donaldson didn’t budge.

The delegates, who had heard repeated criticisms of the media all week, responded with a new chant: ``Push Sam off.″

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Jack Kemp can still throw deep.

Nearly half an hour after the convention ended, the former pro quarterback stood at the edge of the stage, catching miniature footballs tossed his way by delegates.

He quickly _ and accurately _ hurled them back.

But Kemp’s athletic skills apparently didn’t carry over to another sport.

Long after most of the 50,000 balloons dropped from the ceiling at the height of the celebration, a lone white one floated languidly in front of him. Kemp took a halfhearted baseball-style swing at the balloon.

And missed.

___

The confetti had barely settled to the concrete floor of the San Diego convention center, clusters of happy delegates were still looking for cabs outside, when the cleanup crew fanned out to break down the giant TV set that was the 1996 Republican National Convention.

Broom-wielding workers swept up piles of sparkling confetti and the popped remnants of thousands of balloons. ``There’s a piece of confetti for every person in San Diego,″ one worker said.

Access to the convention floor that had been strictly controlled was suddenly as free and open as walking through a bus station. The phalanxes of security personnel had vanished. Convention staffers mugged for snapshots from behind the rostrum where, a few hours earlier, Bob Dole had addressed the delegates and the nation.

Juan Pabio, a foreman supervising the cleanup, operated a fork lift as he arranged racks of convention seating. Workers behind him ripped and rolled yards of bright red carpeting.

``We have six days to clear this up,″ Pabio said, noting that the convention center must be readied for other events. He said the job would take a crew of more than 100 people six days to finish the job.

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