Republicans Take to a Subdued Stage as Much of the Party Focuses Elsewhere

By Michael O'Connell September 2, 2008, 11:30 AM EDT

First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain were among the first to take the stage at the 2008 Republican National Convention

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The spotlight may not shine as brightly on the 2008 Republican Convention as it did on the Democrats last week, but much of that is due to the Republican Party's decision to cut back on the festivities and focus on the presumed crisis Hurricane Gustav posed to the Gulf Coast. Muted proceedings started yesterday at Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center on a stage that starkly contrasted the scene in Denver. 

A simple stage opening onto the convention floor, the Republican platform aims to evoke the town hall meetings that have defined John McCain’s campaign. Sitting just four feet above the floor, it’s also the lowest stage ever erected at a Republican convention, organizers claim. The 30- by 50-foot video board behind the podium is made up of 561 LED monitors, and throughout most of the first day, it displayed footage of a massive American flag waving in front of a clear, blue sky.

Reportedly spending only $1 million on the outfit, Republicans do seem to have splurged on balloons: 200,000 of them will drop over the course of the next three days. 

President George W. Bush was intended to be the first big party name to grace the stage, but he, along with much of the media, shifted attention to the embattled Gulf Coast over the course of the weekend. In his stead, First Lady Laura Bush and the presumptive nominee’s wife, Cindy McCain, were Monday's headline acts.

Forsaking the Democratic route of moving the acceptance speech outside of the convention hall, the stage will ultimately host John McCain when he's tentatively scheduled to speak Thursday evening. The complete convention itinerary remains in flux following Gustav.

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