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Republicans Imagine The Day After Obama's Reelection: A GOP Convention Survey

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Among the survey respondents (clockwise from upper left) were Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, Allen West and Grover Norquist. (Photos: Getty Images)
Among the survey respondents (clockwise from upper left) were Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, Allen West and Grover Norquist. (Photos: Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Should President Barack Obama win reelection this November, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist pledges that he would immediately begin working on the 2014 midterm elections, foreshadowing the same type of adversarial approach that conservatives adopted after Obama's 2008 victory.

He won't have Dr. Ada Fisher to help him, however. The North Carolina Republican national committeewoman and member of the North Carolina Women for Mitt leadership team said she would move to Israel if Obama wins a second term.

"Number one, I'm Jewish," she explained. "And number two, I don't believe Obama will support the nation of Israel. Israel will have to defend itself alone, and they are going to need all hands on deck."

Others promised to join Fisher in her post-election exodus. Lori Hatch, a convention-goer from Oregon, said she would move to the Czech Republic. Sheila, a convention attendee from Tampa who would only reveal her first name, said she would basically disengage from normal society, "get out of the mainstream of all the things I do for the community and business and all of the charitable things I would do."

Then there was Newt Gingrich, who wouldn't even consider the hypothetical. "That's a thought so terrible I can't contemplate it," said the former House speaker.

These are just a sampling of the answers that The Huffington Post received in its very informal survey of delegates, lawmakers, operatives and other attendees at last week's Republican National Convention. The goal was to ask the same four questions of 100 convention-goers. But things got complicated.

For starters, we ran out of time. Attendees were eager to chat at length, and the convention was shortened by one day. In the end, we conducted 61 interviews. Along the way, we encountered other problems. Some people gave more than one answer to the same question. Others didn't address the question at all. Still, the responses were illuminating, if unscientific.

Of those interviewed, a full 16 believe that Obama is putting the country on a path toward socialism or is a socialist himself. (That may not seem like a large number, but only 34 people answered the question.)

"Garbage policies are socialistic policies, yes," said Jeff Johns, a Wisconsin alternate delegate, when asked if the president was a socialist.

Several supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul believe that the president is the polar opposite of a socialist, in the pocket of financial titans rather than the working masses.

"Unfortunately, I think Obama's major donors are the big bankers, and I think that his policies have benefited them the most, at the expense of most American people," said Scott Shock, a Washington state delegate.

Others offered vague replies when asked to identify Obama's ideological leanings.

"I just watched the movie '2016.' I've seen it three times. That tells you what Barack Obama is all about," said Roxanne Lewis, 54, of Oregon, in a reference to conservative intellectual Dinesh D'Souza's anti-Obama film about the president's allegedly anti-colonial roots.

"He is Santa Claus," said Ryan Davenport, 22, of College Station, Texas, "handing out free things to everybody all the time."

The socialist question was, more often than not, the last of the four questions asked survey respondents, many of whom were grabbed in the hallways of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, on the streets of Tampa or at other events around the city. It was also the one that solicited some of the most colorful responses.

Another question posed to attendees was what they would change about the Republican Party if they were granted complete and unquestionable authority. Eleven people said they wouldn't make a change.

"When Republicans act like conservatives, they win," said Rep. Allen West of Florida. "When they try to act like a lesser version of Democrats, they get their butts handed to them. So just be who you are."

Another 11 suggested improving the party's image (which, when one thinks about it, is more a make-over than a change). Two respondents wanted the party to focus less on social issues; one wanted it to focus more on religious issues. The Paul-ites (eight were interviewed) sought changes to the party rules or opposed the changes that were approved during the convention. One top Republican congressional aide, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, said he wanted "better musical acts." One person said the party should support gay marriage. Two respondents (one being Norquist) wanted the party to rally around a comprehensive immigration platform.

"The party is a bit fractured when it comes to immigration policy, depending on whether you are a border state or a Midwestern state like I am," said Rep. Aaron Shock of Illinois. "I think if our party was unified on an immigration reform bill ... it would go a long way towards helping us with the Hispanic and Latino demographic, who I think is with us on every issue but our inability to rally around a comprehensive immigration reform package."

Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez refused to disclose what he would change with supreme authority over the GOP.

"I have to think about that," he said. "I'm not going to tell The Huffington Post today."

HuffPost granted respondents complete power over the Republican Party again for another of the four questions: If they could have anyone accept the nomination on Thursday night, who would it be?

Thirty-one people said they would still choose Mitt Romney. Two said Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate; two said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; eight said Ron Paul; three said former Sen. Rick Santorum; two said Gingrich; one said Winston Churchill; one said her husband; two said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and one suggested Obama's secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood (who is a Republican).

"I think he'd make a great president," said Chris Guidry, a Louisiana alternate delegate. "He'd work with both sides of the aisle, and I think people in America would be receptive to his ability to get things done."

The fourth question required convention-goers to contemplate the unthinkable: If Obama won a second term, what would they do?

For many attendees, this amounted to asking how they would react when face to face with personal ruin. Six respondents said they would be in some form of tears, mourning or sadness.

"Other than cry, I'm not sure what I'd do at this point," said Christine Sutton, 62, of Honolulu. "Canada is just as bad," she added, dismissing a move up north.

Unlike Sutton, 10 respondents said they would move or at least contemplate moving. Five said they would begin prepping for the next election. Three said they would move their money because of economic fears. One, Sue Cosgrove, who declined to reveal where she's from, can't do that.

"I will pray and cry," she said. "I already moved my money."

Two other people chose prayer as a remedy for an Obama win, while one suggested major changes to the family finances.

"Maybe I'll have to take my son out of college at the rate things are going," said Pam Raygor, an Alaska delegate.

But for all the acute trepidation, there were many cooler heads. Thirteen attendees said life would go on. "It's not going to be an apocalypse," conceded Phil Johasz, 25, of Midland, Mich.

"I just do my job," said Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio).

"I get up and go to work," said Ann Clanton, executive director of the Rhode Island Republican Party. "What am I going to do, roll over and die?"

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.

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