Convention Surfer: Republican National Convention, Day 2

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President George W. Bush's video address is cheered on by the Texas delegation to the Republican National Convention, Tuesday night. Copyrighted AP photo by Charles Dharapak.

Nobody flipped a coin at the beginning of the Republican National Convention's second night, and first real night of politics, but the Grand Old Party seemed to start on defense.

On CNN, coverage began with the "best political team on television" discussing how Hurricane Gustav, polling showing Democratic challenger Barack Obama did indeed get a bounce from his just finished convention and new questions about vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin got the Republican convention started on a sour note.

"Why so gloomy?" conservative icon Bill Bennett said when finally given the mike. "May we make our case?"

Soon, the Republicans were making it, headlined by current President George W. Bush giving a hearty endorsement of presumptive nominee John McCain and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, who eight years ago ran against Bush, endorsing McCain and appealing for bipartisan unity.

"What is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this?" Lieberman asked, and went on to tout McCain. All the while he was egged on by yelling from a guy who sounded like an escapee from a Twin Cities bar.

At one point, Lieberman tried to get applause for accomplishments of President Bill Clinton, which the Republicans seemed a bit reluctant to cheer.

The Republicans overall seemed to have a more concise schedule that fit into the major networks' allotted 10 to 11 p.m. block than the Democrats last week. Though President Bush's comments actually took place before 10 Eastern time, ABC, CBS and NBC all squeezed in part or most of his address and aired Lieberman's speech. Fred Thompson spoke between the two, and while CBS and ABC's attention wandered to pundits and interviews, the former Law & Order star got attention from the Peacock.

On Charlie Rose, Bloomberg News' Al Hunt praised the speech by the former candidate for the Republican nomination saying, "He woke up eight months too late for his own campaign."

Vetting: There's been a lot of talk about vetting of vice-presidential candidates in the last day, which reminded me of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's interview on The Daily Show last week. Discussing being vetted as a potential running mate for Obama, Kaine said, "People know a lot of things about me I never thought I'd reveal, you know, your high school girlfriend's middle name. Then you give a name, and then they come back and tell you she said she was never your girlfriend."

The angry left?: Even President George W. Bush utilized the term "angry left," to describe the Republicans' opposition. But consistently, it was conservative pundits and figures who came across as embittered when they were given a microphone yesterday. In an interview with CBS' Katie Couric, Steve Schmidt, a McCain campaign adviser, said voters would "angrily reject," what he characterized and unfair attacks on vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Figures such as Rudy Giuliani and hosts such as Fox's Sean Hannity and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough were spitting venom at any suggestion that the pregnancy of  Palin's 17-year-old daughter was a legitimate story. Who's angry? 

From the stage Tuesday, Republicans came across as proud and optimistic, but one-on-one, they often seemed less appealing last night.

Discipline: One stark contrast between the Republican convention and last week's Democratic convention is the consistency of delegates. While correspondents had no trouble finding delegates to discuss misgivings about Barack Obama, express support for Hillary Clinton, etc., at the Dems' affair, Republican delegates didn't give an inch to any of the controversies ranging outside the Excel Center — questions about Palin, President Bush appearing via video instead of in person and things of that sort.

Where's Big O?: Monday and Tuesday night, MSNBC's liberal icon Keith Olbermann was broadcasting from New York. Will he make it to the Twin Cities for the Republican convention? According to an NBC source, Olbermann is staying in NYC to anchor hurricane coverage when Hanna makes landfall on the East Coast late this week. Seriously? Since when is Olbermann a general news anchor? He has always been a partisan pundit. Hannity had the nerve to show up in Denver. Olbermann should be in Minnesota. Rachel Maddow is there, articulating a liberal position despite a less than supportive crowd surrounding the MSNBC outpost.

Democratic oasis?: The Daily Show has gone to the Twin Cities, but judging by the audience reaction, it seems Jon Stewart's faux news show is probably a main attraction for the Democratic response team that set up shop across from the convention and liberal protesters. The audience hooped an hollered as Stewart and Co. shredded the Republican's line about, "taking off our Republican hats and putting on our American hats," and generally mocked the past eight years. Also, while last week's episodes featured Democratic leaders, the first guest this week was NBC News anchor Brian Williams, though their exchange couldn't  have been testier if Williams was Karl Rove. "It must be nice to have a little liberal salon," Williams said near the end of their interview.

Wednesday night: We hear from the Governor of Alaska. What wine goes best with mooseburgers?

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