Several Wisconsinites will make an indelible mark on the Republican National Convention this week, and a number of party faithful from the area are headed to Tampa to be part of the excitement.
With , Gov. Scott Walker and Reince Preibus serving as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the convention will have a cheddar-friendly tone.
The convention formally opens Monday, but because of Tropical Storm Isaac, most events for Monday have been canceled.
Among those from southeastern Wisconsin who are heading to Florida are Cathy Stepp, Dona Poelman, Yash Wadhwa and Brian Dorow — Republicans who say they believe in the fundamental values of individual freedom, less spending and less government.
They also believe in Ryan’s ability to make the case for a conservative movement to take root on a national level and they want to see Romney and Ryan in the White House.
Wisconsin on center stage
So why are Wisconsin's political figures making such a splash on the national scene?
After passing Act 10 into law, Wisconsin Republicans are seen as battle-tested warriors for conservative values, and Ryan's federal budget proposal has become a bold solution for conservatives.
“Wisconsin is fundamentally more of a purple state, but the conservatives here have had to work hard to layout our case,” said Stepp, a former state senator for Racine and Kenosha counties, and now secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources.
“We’ve gotten better at communicating our messages, we’ve gotten better at simplifying our points and our people are willing to take the lead under immense political pressure," she said. "When you do that, it emboldens people to do the same.”
Stepp has known Ryan for a long time. She believes he has a strong understanding of the economic issues the country is facing, and he communicates his ideas well.
“He boils down very complex solutions into messages people can relate to,” she said.
Several of those who are trekking to Florida said these messages have resonated well in Wisconsin and they have a place on the federal level.
Wadhwa, of Glendale, moved to the United States from India. He's an engineer who owned a successful business for more than 20 years with his father, but he now works for a local company. A member of the Republican Party for 25 years, he's worked on campaigns and fundraisers but "this is my first convention in my life and I'm very excited," he said.
He's looking forward most to the night when Romney and Ryan formally win the nomination.
"I can't wait to meet the other Wisconsin delegates and to being part of the team that nominates the Romney/Ryan ticket," he added. "I've known Paul for over 20 years, and he's a super guy, an expert on the federal budget and a person with high integrity and energy."
Wadhwa said he likes Romney because of his successful business background and his experience as governor of Massachusetts.
Dona Poelman, a delegate from Racine County, is also excited to see that Wisconsin has become “the center of everything right now.”
“It really proves that America still is the heartland,” she said. “Right now the country is divided between farm folks and city folks, but this shows that America is still driven by the heartland because we’re directing the dialogue and our people are being the change that needs to happen.”
Poelman calls herself a constitutionalist, which means returning to the values that the forefathers had: freedom, individual responsibility, and smaller government. She was won over by Romney when he chose Ryan. She has known the congressman since 1998 when she worked on his campaign and she’s always been impressed with him.
“What you see is what you get with him,” Poelman said. “He’s not trying to fool anyone, he’s trying to make a difference.”
Poelman believes this election is a watershed moment for the country, a choice between euro-socialism and going back to the values of the Constitution.
Brian Dorow, of Delafield, is going to the convention — just not as a delegate. He’s looking forward to being apart of the environment as Wisconsin plays a center stage for Republicans with officials and candidates like Ryan, Priebus, Walker and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
“Wisconsin events are the highest-ticket item at the convention because of all of the things we have gone through,” Dorow said.
In addition to the strong Wisconsin connections, Dorow said he’s looking forward to the networking opportunities with top dignitaries from throughout the United States.
“It is over-the-top exciting,” said Dorow. “So much energy and so much enthusiasm. In the end, you get to listen to some great people, get some great speeches.”
Patch editor Sarah Millard contributed to this report.