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RNC, Day One: "Hurricane Mode"

10:15 AM, Sep 1, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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St. Paul
The GOP convention begins this afternoon amid grave concern for the citizens of the Gulf Coast. And while the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota looks much like conventions of the past, this party gathering is like no other.

Convention planners spent most of the day Sunday undoing arrangements in the works for over a year. It was the right thing to do, despite the massive disruption to the efforts of RNC planners. As one veteran convention planner told me last night, "We're talking about changing convention plans; the people in the Gulf region are worried about their lives. This is a no brainer."

The rest of the week is operating under what one official called "Hurricane Mode." This morning Cindy McCain is scheduled to meet with Louisiana delegates gathered here for the GOP convention. Later today from about 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm CST, delegates will transact routine business like electing temporary convention officers, adopting the platform, settling some RNC rules changes. Tonight's session was supposed to include speeches from President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the First Lady. These were all scrubbed and officials will announce the schedule for Tuesday - and perhaps the rest of the week -- later today.

Amid all the confusion and uncertainty - both meteorologically and politically - an electronic display on the wall of the convention hall communicates a lot about the GOP nominee and his approach to this gathering. About half way up the stands in the Excel Center, something they call the "video ribbon" circles the auditorium repeating a visual message normally meant to generate chants from sports fans in this converted hockey stadium, like "DEFENSE" or "LOUDER." RNC planners thought the electronic tool would help lead delegates in partisan cheering during the convention. This morning the video ribbon reads - Country First -- a more sobering and accurate description of John McCain's character and approach to this week's Republican convention.