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For Texas delegates, a lonely role

Texas is not a state accustomed to being treated small. As everyone knows -- and Texans are happy to boast -- it is a sprawling mass, a culture unto itself, a place fond of recalling its days as a wholly independent republic.

So it is with hard-to-swallow humility that Texas Democrats visiting Boston for the Democratic National Convention find themselves the only delegation assigned to the Hilton Boston Logan Airport, overlooking the Massachusetts Turnpike Extension. The Texans are struggling to land well-known breakfast speakers, settling so far for a lame-duck Texas congressman. Their convention seating, a level above the floor in a wedge of seats left of center, is less than prime. Their allotment of guest invites is modest at best.

"We're the lowest on the totem pole," lamented Margery Loeb, a delegate and business consultant from Victoria, Texas.

Such is the status of states with little chance of a Democratic win in November. Texas is the most glaring example, being big and President Bush's stronghold. But it is joined by a number of other Republican-dominated states, the so-called red states expected to once again support Bush. They all have been ignored in the goodies and attention lavished on 18 battleground states this week.

Alabama delegates are eating breakfast in a charmless, windowless hall. Nebraska and Virginia hosted a party Saturday night for GOP-leaning states not invited to the A-list parties. They called it "Black Ball at the Black Rose," a tongue-in-cheek reference to their exclusion. The Idaho delegation resorted to dismantling partitions at the Radisson Hotel so delegates could listen in on speakers addressing hotly courted Washington state, which yesterday included actor Richard Dreyfuss.

All over town, battleground states are enjoying the treatment. West Virginia delegates spent yesterday afternoon sipping cocktails in Louisburg Square at the home of John Kerry's neighbor. Arkansas snared Caroline Kennedy. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Maine enjoyed visits from actor John Cusack.

New Hampshire last night once again had front-and-center floor seating, directly behind Massachusetts.

The key swing states, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia, landed plum lodging in the convention headquarters hotel, the Sheraton Boston.

Convention officials said every effort was made to give states equal treatment.

"The Democratic National Convention is a giant undertaking," said Angus McQuilken, spokesman for the Democratic National Convention Committee. "The Committee has done our very best to ensure a great experience for every delegation and every delegate."

Certain red states -- the color pundits assigned states that supported Bush in the 2000 election -- have been afforded perks.

Floor passes have been difficult to come by for family members and guests of delegates. But not for North Carolina. Party officials gleefully announced yesterday that they had been able to grant 60 guest passes Monday night, to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend the address by President Bill Clinton. It helped, of course, that North Carolina is represented in the US Senate by the presumptive vice presidential nominee, John Edwards.

"I want to make particular mention of the Edwards folks on the Kerry-Edwards campaign who were able to free some up for us late in the day," Scott Falmlen, the party's executive director, told the North Carolina delegates.

Then there is Idaho, which supported the GOP ticket in 2000 and is expected to do the same this year. The delegation is sitting on the far perimeter of the floor, next to the media section. Only the Democrats Abroad delegation has it worse, seated behind Idaho.

"We're definitely not a battleground state," said Marilyn Howard, chairwoman of the Idaho delegation. "But we're just happy to be at the convention where our views aren't in the minority as in Idaho."

Texans are not taking the slights as well. The 232-member delegation is a proud bunch, easily recognizable in vests emblazoned with the Texas flag and cowboy boot-shaped pins that flash in neon red, white, and blue lights. Some wave American flags festooned with faux sprigs of bluebonnet, the Texas flower.

Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News weighed in on the matter of the Texas delegation's lodging at the airport hotel in verse: "Hello, Mudda, hello, Fadda. I am overlooking Lufthansa. The Texas Dems have come to Boston. And state support for Bush is gonna cost 'em."

But Texas' treatment comes as no surprise, given the Texas Democratic Party's anemic condition -- a dramatic comedown from last century when such Democrats as Sam Rayburn and Lyndon B. Johnson dominated both Texas and American politics, said Earl Black, a professor of political science at Rice University.

"Texas Democrats are weaker than they have ever been," Black said. "Every major statewide office is held by Republicans. . . . I'm sure whoever is deciding who goes where has written off Texas so completely that Texas Democrats have to settle for the crumbs."

Texas delegates protest, arguing that Bush is losing favor in his home state.

"Don't count Texas out," said Earlie Davis, 72, a retired teacher from Dallas.

Others seemed resigned to Texas' diminished role.

"Texans want to do anything possible to see George Bush go," said Jim Fletcher, 55, a businessman from Fort Worth. "Even if that means taking a back seat."

Jenn Abelson, Michael Paulson, and Maria Cramer of the Globe Staff and Michael Levenson, a Globe correspondent, contributed to this report.

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