GOP convention: Lead-up spins like a top

I landed in Minneapolis Saturday afternoon and within an hour, the Republican National Convention delivered something conventions almost never do: Surprises.

It began at the airport at baggage carousel No. 9 with an all-female barbershop quartet at the airport. (Is that a Minnesota thing? Hey, I love Prairie Home Companion, so I’m not complaining.)

But within an hour of checking into my hotel room near St. Paul at the Sheraton, the entire Republican convention seemed to be in as much peril as the residents living along the Gulf Coast in Hurricane Gustav’s path.

Out of concern for the potential victims of Gustav, expected to hit land on Monday, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pulled out of Monday night’s speaking schedule. Pundits squabbled on cable TV about whether the Republicans should cancel the whole shebang. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger begged off, citing California’s unresolved budget mess.

No way did Republicans want that split screen showing a balloon drop and big party scene next to people clinging to trees and hanging from rescue helicopters above raging flood waters.

By Sunday afternoon, presumed presidential nominee John McCain held a press conference and announced the GOP would truncate Monday’s floor session and conduct only the bare minimum business. The party, under its rules, must convene on Sept. 1, adopt a platform and elect its officers.

The rest of the convention would be on hold pending Gustav’s impact on the Gulf states, said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

But by Sunday night, GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told my colleague Mary Anne Ostrom of the Mercury News that he expected McCain to show up Thursday night as scheduled. He told delegates they should plan on staying around all week. The California GOP was changing the tone of its events and renamed its Monday night party into a “reception” where they planned to would raise money for Gustav victims.

Okay. I’ll try to keep up but I’m starting to feel as though I’m in the eye of Hurricane Gustav and can’t tell which way is up.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen