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Blogging the convention: Sunday, Monday subdued at Republican convention

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 1, 2008- Sunday - The Missouri delegation has arrived in Minnesota. The attitude here is subdued, with our hearts and minds turned towards the Gulf. John McCain's campaign has been centered around putting country first, and that principle does not waver, even for a party's convention. So the Republican Party will be the second priority this week; America will come first. I think that is not only the right move politically; I think that it is the right thing to do.

With that said, several important announcements were made at a welcome meeting for delegates and alternates held earlier today. Obviously, we were informed of the scheduling changes. Other items of note dealt with convention logistics. The Missouri delegation will be seated front and center on the convention floor, a testament to the importance of the Show Me State this November. Missouri also will be one of five states to place the names of John McCain and Sarah Palin into nomination.

The Missouri delegates and alternates watched a live feed of the McCain rally in O'Fallon on a projection screen in the delegation hotel. I love how Republicans love their country. When the "Star Spangled Banner" was played at the rally in O'Fallon, the entire room in Minneapolis fell silent, the people stood and placed their hands over their hearts. Some even sang along. The room also applauded throughout the speech, with great applause coming when John McCain talked about his new running mate, Sarah Palin.

Tonight, Missouri delegates attended Civic Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Thousands of delegates from around the country circulated around very politically oriented exhibits. Turn left, and you could have your picture taken with a live bald eagle. Turn right, and you could walk through a replica of Air Force One. Straight ahead was a life-size Oval Office as it appears today. And behind you were countless vendors selling more political merchandise than I have ever seen.

From my brief glimpse of convention activities thus far, Minnesota certainly has invested great time and resources to welcome Republicans here.

Monday

Every morning, the Missouri delegation begins its day with breakfast and speakers. This morning, we listened to Missouri Republican Party Chairman Doug Russell and Gov. Matt Blunt. 

Like everyone else here in Minneapolis, Russell focused on the Gulf. He expressed hope that the hurricane would dissipate and not cause near the damage that was at one time feared. Russell was also at the McCain rally in O'Fallon yesterday. He reported that more than 23,000 tickets had been distributed and that he saw many new faces, both Independents and Democrats, in the crowd.

Blunt entered to an enthusiastic standing ovation. He began by telling the crowd that Missouri's thoughts and prayers were with the people of the Gulf Coast. The governor announced that 600 National Guard members had been deployed already to Louisiana to assist with police functions and supply distribution. Another 700 will be sent in the near-future. Blunt spoke with Gov. Bobby Jindal yesterday and assured Jindal that Missouri would do everything that we could to help the people of Louisiana.

Blunt also talked a little politics. He said that Sen. Barack Obama is the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, according to the National Journal, and that to balance his ticket, Obama chose the third most liberal senator, Joe Biden. The crowd laughed when Blunt noted that both Obama and Biden were more liberal than Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist from Vermont, who is the fourth most liberal senator. The crowd also laughed when Blunt wondered how Biden could bring change to Washington when he has served in the Senate since Blunt was only 2 years old.

On the Republican side, Blunt said that Sen. John McCain had picked a proven reformer who would appeal to Missouri, calling Sarah Palin a "great selection." The governor highlighted Palin's record of fiscal conservativeness and her knowledge of energy policy. Blunt said that it is vital that Missouri cast its votes for the McCain / Palin ticket.

Today's schedule is abbreviated because of the attention on Hurricane Gustav. The convention will begin for a short time at 2:30 p.m. There is a Missouri luncheon before that, and then several other activities tonight. It should be a full enough day.

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