It's the final day of the Republican National Convention and the North Carolina delegation thinks President Bush has already won another four years.
As the delegates hold their last event before heading home, state party chairman Ferrell Blount blurts, "I'm hyped; I really am." He goes further. "In my state, Bush will do better than he did in 2000."
Four years ago, North Carolina was second only to Texas in supporting George W. Bush. Its senator, John Edwards, is on the opposing ticket, but Blount blows that off. "It's a sure bet," he asserts.
"The spotlight has just begun to come back to us. The more people that get to know John Kerry the less they like him," Blount says.
That's the crux of the Republicans' confidence, which grew even stronger this week. They believe Americans don't like the Democratic presidential nominee.
Delegate Renee Russell sits and says, "I do feel better." She feels better because she believes Americans prefer someone going with someone they're familiar with as opposed to the unknown.
"Lots of people in North Carolina, even Democrats, supported Jesse Helms because even if you did not like him, you had a comfort level with him," she says.
Russell thinks Americans are uncomfortable with Kerry because they don't know "how he stands."
"People were willing to take a chance but he hasn't taken advantage of the opportunity," Russell explains, as she chats with friends 64 floors above Manhattan in the swank Rainbow Room.
The North Carolina delegation eats seared tuna, prime rib and crepes at an afternoon lunch sponsored by Duke Power, an electric company that serves the two Carolinas.
"Obviously there was concern when Edwards went on the ticket," says state party council Marshall Hurley, sipping a beer. "But when the dust settled, it didn't change a lot of votes."
"I'm very energized," he continues. "This is my fourth convention but by far the most lifting and most organized."
When the political conventions are reduced to memories and the debates conclude, Republicans in this delegation are confident they'll win. And they believe it's because Americans won't trust Kerry as a viable alternative to President Bush.
"There's a great deal of contempt for Kerry and some of his ideas and especially his flip-flopping," says delegate David Rickard. "President Bush has been silent for a whole year while the Democrats have been beating up on him; it was a good campaign strategy."
Rickard believes it was a good strategy because it forced the Democrats to use up all their ammunition well before the final lap of the election.
With 60 days left and $75 million allotted to each candidate, these delegates think all President Bush has to do is stay the course.
Sipping her Jack Daniels and coke, alternate delegate Valerie White says, "I think [the election] was probably even at one point, the summer." She adds, "But Kerry didn't get the bounce from the convention and the swift boat ads hurt his credibility."
By David Paul Kuhn