Republicans mute convention festivities

September 1, 2008 7:49:27 PM PDT
Republicans in St. Paul, Minnesota are dealing with a radically scaled-back national convention.

This was supposed to be the Grand Ole Party's big week -- before Gustav intruded.

At the delegate welcoming party the music was upbeat, but the mood was somber, especially among Gulf Coast delegates.

"Actually, we've had a lot of our delegation have to go back to south Louisiana," Louisiana delegate Trent Newell said. "McCain's campaign actually charted an airplane for any of us that want to go back."

Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain said he wanted the party to just take care of business at the convention -- no speeches, no grandstanding, no primetime television, at least not Monday. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger were the headliners scheduled for Monday, but none of them appeared.

Alternate California delegate John Ziegler thought the scaling back was unnecessary.

"We get one shot, four days, once every four years and we're giving up one of these days tonight, one hour of primetime because we're afraid that it's going to look bad when it has absolutely no impact whatsoever on the relief efforts on the Gulf Coast," Ziegler said. "I don't understand that."

Losing a night of primetime coverage will hurt a little, but going forward as planned would have been inappropirate," former California Governor Pete Wilson said.

"We understand the eyes and ears of the country really ought to be trained on New Orleans and the Gulf," he said.

On Radio Row outside the convention hall, the topic of the hour was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's revelation that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock and plans to keep the baby and marry the father. The news caught many by surprise, including former California Secretary of State and chairman of the California delegation Bill Jones.

"I think that's a family matter, we're very proud of our nominee and look forward to having her on the ticket," Jones said.

Senior McCain campaign advisor Steve Schmidt said McCain knew about the pregnancy before he asked Palin to be his running mate.

"The American people are decent, and for people who have kids, life happens and the reality is the American people will be very offended by any attempts of anybody to try and make political hay out of a family matter," Schmidt said.


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