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Meet Pa.'s David Urban, Trump tactician and 'traffic controller' at RNC

CLEVELAND - In the VIP section of the Republican convention sat some of Donald Trump's A-list allies - son Donald Jr., neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Bob Dole, the only previous GOP nominee willing to show up here to support the party's new standard-bearer.

CLEVELAND - In the VIP section of the Republican convention sat some of Donald Trump's A-list allies - son Donald Jr., neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Bob Dole, the only previous GOP nominee willing to show up here to support the party's new standard-bearer.

As a swarm of media buzzed around them, a burly man from Pennsylvania watched, spoke quickly to a succession of convention staffers, and calculated who should arrive next.

In the VIP area, David Urban plays "air-traffic controller," as he put it, for party luminaries, spouses, and key guests who want a spot in the area that comes with national exposure as television cameras cut to reaction shots.

"Nobody has an ego in politics," he deadpanned, "so it's pretty easy."

More broadly behind the scenes here, Urban, a jocular veteran and longtime Pennsylvania political operative, has taken on a critical role trying to keep the convention running smoothly, in addition to his work as a senior Trump adviser who expects to help the candidate through the fall.

Formally the convention's deputy director of caucus operations for now, Urban, 52, is overseeing the team orchestrating the action on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena, from the operatives who put down a "Never Trump" rebellion to making sure the right signs are handed out for the right speakers.

Urban is also tasked with making sure the people in the best seats match the messages on stage - that veterans, for example, are front and center when speeches turn to national security.

Monday, he had just 27 VIP spots to offer up - 28 when Rudy Giuliani wanted to join. Urban found a folding chair.

The former chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter and now a Washington lobbyist, Urban has brought along a squad of Pennsylvanians to help.

Vince Galko, a consultant from the Scranton area, is working on the whip team, which sprung into action to stop Trump opponents who tried Monday to force a potentially embarrassing roll-call vote on the convention rules.

James Schultz, former general counsel to then-Gov. Tom Corbett, is on the legal team. Greg Rothman, a state representative from Cumberland County and longtime political hand, has a lead role on convention operations.

"It's a combination of putting out fires constantly, whether its VIPs or political issues," Galko said. "It's choreography - making sure things go well on the floor."

That might mean making sure each delegation has enough hats or chairs - the kind of thing Galko and others have done for county and state party meetings, but never on this scale. The convention is hosting nearly 4,800 delegates and alternates, 15,000 media members, and around 50,000 total visitors, party officials say.

At a convention that sometimes seems to be flying by the seat of its pants for the most unconventional candidate in memory, Galko said Urban is well-prepared.

"When you run Sen. Specter's office," Galko said, "this is a day at the park."

He could have pointed as well to Urban's other credentials: a West Point alum who won a Bronze Star in the first Iraq War, where he served with the 101st Airborne.

A Beaver County native with degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, Urban has taken on a key political role with Trump since shortly before Pennsylvania's April 26 primary - when the billionaire shocked most analysts by sweeping all 67 counties.

Urban has been in Cleveland since late May, working to integrate the sometimes clunky Trump operation with the RNC's machinery.

Day one, by most assessments, wasn't pretty.

First came an eleventh-hour delegate rebellion against Trump, trying to force a floor vote on convention rules. The whip team, including Galko, helped end that battle by persuading enough defiant delegates to change their minds.

"A lot of people didn't know what they were signing until we explained it to them," he said.

But other trouble followed - much of it beyond Urban's control.

During prime time, Trump called in to Fox News, drawing attention to himself just as Patricia Smith gave a wrenching speech in the arena blaming Hillary Clinton for her son's death in Benghazi.

With many star Republicans staying away from the convention altogether, one who came, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, was bumped late into the evening when the program ran long.

Worst of all, the best-received speech of the night, from Trump's wife, Melania, came under fire when it became clear parts matched Michelle Obama's address to the 2008 Democratic convention.

The flubs added to the criticism that Trump's impulsive style will cost him as he turns from the primaries to the bigger task of a general election.

Urban downplayed the speech flap Tuesday, saying he'd not seen transcripts comparing the two talks. He declared day one of the RNC "a tremendous success."

"Last night's program was designed to be interesting and different," he said Tuesday. "This campaign has been interesting and different from the very beginning."

Given his role, might he know what Trump would say in his acceptance speech Thursday night?

"Uhhh," Urban said, "nope."