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St. Paul, Kinda Day One

This Labor Day holiday has to be one of the stranger, most disjointed convention days in recent history. We are relatively in a bubble here once again as far as seeing how cable news is covering the day’s events, but one can only assume the dominant story is Gustav with little else getting oxygen. There’s probably a little bit of Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy (released at the precise moment of Gustav landfall) and Troopergate thrown in, but not much else.

Here on the ground, one of the big stories is the major demonstration of thousands of marchers protesting the war (and at least a baker’s dozen other grievances), the hundreds of police in full riot gear, the tear gassing, the arrest of Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Liberal bloggers are hot and heavy on the story, with Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller a few seats away in the UpTake space editing and uploading video of those events. For Democratic bloggers, this is The Story. Nobody here seems to be concerned with Palin’s multi-front problematic day. It’s all about the YouTube and tear gas.

Yet only a couple blocks away where the Republican delegates and glitterati are hanging out, the demonstrations might as well have occurred in a different city. Where the relatively few delegates and Republican politicians congregated outside the River Center on this mostly off-day of the convention, the demonstrations were an afterthought. The riot-geared police prevented all foot traffic from leaving the prescribed march zone, so these folks didn’t intersect. People strolled on the warm summer afternoon through Rice Park – where MSNBC has set up its operation – and I spent some time canvassing delegate opinion on Sarah Palin.

Disappointingly, Republicans I spoke with weren’t willing to vary from the party line. Newt Gingrich cited “the Washington Post story” on the robust vetting Sarah Palin (even though it’s obvious she was vetted very, very poorly if at all), and talked in sound bites about how she represented a fresh face for the Republican Party. Mitt Romney blew me off (it’s almost like he doesn’t want to talk about VP stuff), and Norm Coleman was last seen sprinting from the scene, so they had no comment. You really aren’t a fully realized human being til you’ve been blown off by Mitt Romney.

Regular delegates weren’t much different. Asked what they liked best about Palin, they’d rattle off a list. Asked what their least favorite thing about her was, nearly everyone “couldn’t think of one.” One delegate from Florida said he wished she had more foreign policy experience but thought she could get up to speed in due time. I told the black delegate from Florida I’d look for him on TV.

To be truthful, I stopped asking after about ten interviews because I was getting bored with the party line. Whatever Josh Green and others are reporting about delegate shock and dissatisfaction with the vetting of the pick, it’s not apparent in rank-and-file delegate responses I’m getting. It’s happy, happy, happy. Questions about Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy were met with cheery replies – she’s a supportive mom, a great woman, it’s great that she’s choosing to have the baby, etc. It felt like a strong aversion to saying anything critical. Eventually I stopped delving and went to talk to Chuck Todd, who is good people.

A few minutes later, Karl Rove jogged quickly down Market Street between 6th and 5th accompanied by a body man, but I didn’t have the heart to chase him down. Instead I turned and asked Joe Watkins whether he knew what the next day’s convention schedule would be. Watkins is scheduled to address the convention tomorrow, and as of an hour ago hadn’t heard whether he’d be getting the green light.

Tomorrow it does appear that most events will go on as planned, and it’s unclear whether the demonstrations will be back or in what force. We may actually have speeches to liveblog in the evening, and of course Ron Paul’s final day is tomorrow. Finally, I recommend CNN’s meal room – try the chicken piccata.

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