Judy Wise, Mary Jo Futch and Diane Fleming arrived early, poised in a glass-walled room at the Hillsborough County Republican Party headquarters in Brandon, to greet with an enthusiastic crowd of like-minded voters the Aug. 17 arrival of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
A graduate of King High School, and arriving with her husband, George, a graduate of Brandon High School, Bondi whisked into the room flanked by state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, the Tampa Bay chair for the Women's Coalition for Mitt.
With them was Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman; state Senator Ronda Storms, who is running for the office of Hillsborough County property appraiser; and Margaret Iuculano, who opposes Democrat Kevin Beckner in his reelection bid for the District 6 seat on the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.
It was Wise who caught Bondi's eye as she greeted the entusiasts gathered in support of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president, and his chosen running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Wise was carrying a sign that read: "Grandmothers for Mitt." With her was Romney supporter Diane Fleming.
"We're part of the 'Women for Mitt' and we support Romney and we suppport Pam Bondi," Wise said. "I'm really excited now because Ryan's part of the ticket and he is articulate and he expresses conservative ideas well."
Medicare promises to be a hot-item in this year's presidential race. Under an initial plan Ryan released in 2011 "Medicare would have changed from a program that pays doctors and hospitals fees for particular services to one in which beneficiaries would be paid an amount by the government that they could use toward private insurance premiums," according to a PolitiFact.com report by the Tampa Bay Times.
"This would have affected people who today are under 55 only, but critics said those who fell under the new rules would face an increasingly large gap between what the government paid for their benefits and what their health care services cost," according to the Times report.
Wise is not concerned with the critics.
"Yes, I like [Ryan's] ideas for Medicare," she said, noting that because she is age 55, it "won't affect me at all." But, she added, "my son is 42 and believe me, I don't want his Social Security or Medicare in danger, either."
As for the plan's finer points, Wise said she is willing to trust the messenger as critics pick apart the message.
"Who knows if what we're wrestling about now is the last idea or the best idea," she said. "But it's a plan in progress and the Democrats aren't talking about any solutions."
Jill Bader is the Florida communication director for the Republican National Committee. She was in Brandon to support the local efforts of the Women's Coalition for Mitt.
"Not only is this election crucial to Florida, but Florida is crucial to a Romney-Ryan victory," she said. "We've got a lot of work to do."
The Aug. 17 gathering, a photo and video opportunity by design, served as well as a rallying cry for grassroots support.
"It's kind of like a pep rally," Bader said, who added that with the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa, "this is an exciting time for us."
Ana Maria Stern said she was born in Spain and raised in Grenada, a country she and her family fled after the 1979 coup there.
"I don't believe in socialized anything, not business, not government, not Medicare," she said. Her support of the Romney-Ryan ticket, she said, is predicated on her belief that Freedom of Speech "was the first bastion of freedom and the best."
Speaking their minds is what Republican Party organizers are encouraging the "Women for Mitt" to do on Wednesdays. That's when supporters are invited to visit Republican "Victory Offices" — including the one in Brandon and in Temple Terrace, which planned to open Aug. 18 at 234 Bullard Pkwy. — to place campaign calls to other women.
"Every day it gets more exciting," said Terri Gaffney, general counsel for the Hillsborough County Republican Party. Women are invited to "place calls to women" to talk about the economy and issues that matter to them, Gaffney added.
As for her enthusiasm, Gaffney said she is even more supportive of Romney now that Ryan is on the ticket.
"He picked a genius," Gaffney said. "He [Ryan] has an economic plan. I'm a tax attorney, I liked his plan. I think it's doable, it does what it needs to do."