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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 1: Monday, August 30, 2004

Editor's Note: Follow all the action at the 2004 Republican National Convention with CNN correspondents, anchors, analysts and guests on this daily Weblog. All times are Eastern Daylight.

Various takes

Former president George H.W. Bush waves to the crowd after arriving at Madison Square Garden.

Posted: 11:45 p.m. ET
From Sean Loughlin,, and Todd Leopold,

Depending upon who you asked, tonight was either a symbol of Republican unity -- or America's division.

Democrats wasted no time in critiquing the speeches of key GOP luminaries. They pointed out that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani slightly changed one line in his address -- one that took on new meaning after President Bush gave an interview with NBC in which he said he didn't think the United States could "win" the war on terrorism.

As prepared, Giuliani was scheduled to say, "So long as George Bush is president, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism." But as delivered, Giuliani said, "So long as George Bush is our President, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us."

But CNN's Jeff Greenfield observed the speeches of Arizona Sen. John McCain and Giuliani formed a strong "one-two punch," both speeches expressing the belief that President Bush is the right man to lead the country.

CNN's Bill Schneider, however, said it was all rather ironic. New York was originally selected as the RNC site because the choice of the city underscored national unity immediately following September 11, he noted. But the Big Apple's cool reception to the GOP now showcases the country's split on the record of the Bush administration.

"Now I think New York is symbolic of the nation's division," said Schneider.

Readers write ...

Posted: 10:53 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Readers send in their comments on the Republican convention:

- Elizabeth from Enid, Oklahoma, didn't like John McCain's speech: "At one time I thought there was some hope for McCain but his speech at the convention has proven that he was not presidential material. What a sell-out."

- Mazie from Norwood, Massachusetts, is enjoying the convention: "The convention is very good. The speakers for 9/11 are excellent. God bless these women."

- And Jim from New York would rather the Republicans have gone somewhere else: "I think the Republicans should have held the convention somewhere they are wanted, like Texas or Georgia or South Carolina."

What's your sign?

Posted: 9:33 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

They're a little-known, elite squad of trained experts: the RNC Sign Distribution Team.

Members of the team -- mostly young men and women -- wear official blue T-shirts emblazoned with the RNC logo on the back and the words Sign Distribution Team printed squarely on the upper left front. Cool.

Music breaks out, delegates stand up and dance. BUT SOME HAVE NO SIGNS! The young distributors quickly grab stacks of placards bearing slogans ranging from the plain-spoken "G.W. Bush" to the declarative "We Want 4 More Years" to the simple "Dubya!"

Quickly, the team distributes the signs to areas of the hall that appear, well, signless. attempted to find out more about this stealthy group, but when approached they nervously blurted "No comment!" and "We can't say anything, man."

The bipartisan Van Halen

Posted: 9:20 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

You'd think Republicans and Democrats wouldn't be able to agree on much in the way of music. Democrats, judging from performers at the Democratic convention and various rallies, are hip-hop and '60s baby boomer; Republicans are country and light rock.

But one band has produced music to satisfy both sides, notes CNN's David De Sola: Van Halen.

The Kerry campaign used the group's song "Right Now" at the Democratic convention in late July (and continues to use the song at campaign rallies). Tonight, the Republicans trotted out Van Halen's 1984 hit "Jump" to introduce skydiving former President George H.W. Bush.

However, they're still divided on one thing: lead singers. "Right Now" was a Sammy Hagar-sung tune; "Jump" is from the David Lee Roth era.

Guess who's coming to the Republican convention?

Posted: 8:50 p.m. ET
From: Greg Botelho,

While John Kerry and Bill Clinton have not entered Madison Square Garden's hallowed halls this week, Michael Moore did brave the security and the GOP throngs. Having already helped lead the massive Sunday protests through the Big Apple, Moore will write a column this week for USA Today, and said he looks forward to "wandering around" the Republican den.

"I love talking to Republicans," said Moore, teeing up for his punch line. "The more you talk to them, the more you realize ... they are Republicans in name only."

In fact, the fiery "Fahrenheit 9/11" director said he expected -- if not hugs and kisses -- then at least a warm welcome from the GOP brethren. Until, that is, reporters began peppering him with questions about his personal safety.

"I hadn't even thought about it -- you're making me nervous," said Moore, with a sly chuckle.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York City by a 5-to-1 margin, Moore said that this is not "enemy territory" for the GOP -- noting that many right-leaning Fox News columnists, the National Journal, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many Wall Street heavies call the city home.

"This is a lovely place for the Republicans to be, and they should not feel at all unwelcome," said Moore.

Picture perfect

Posted: 7:45 p.m. ET
From Richard Shumate, Wires.CNN news editor

In the hall that rings Madison Square Garden at the building level outside the convention floor, photographs of President Bush in various settings have been put up showing the "kinder, gentler" side of the commander-in-chief.

There's Bush throwing a football. Bush sharing a meal with people around a picnic table. Bush sharing a laugh with Condi Rice and Dick Cheney in the Oval Office. Bush hugging troops. Bush talking with an elderly woman. Bush walking with his wife.

Readers write ...

Posted: 7:37 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Thanks to blog readers -- you're providing us with some interesting, and wide-ranging, e-mail.

Several readers commented on former New York Mayor Ed Koch's decision to support President Bush, even though Koch is a Democrat.

"Until I read your report about Ed Koch, he was one of my favorite men. Sorry, no more!" wrote Chris from Yonkers, New York.

"How can [Ed Koch] be for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and W in 2004?" asks William from Salt Lake City, Utah. William might be jumping the gun; as far as we know, neither Koch nor Sen. Clinton has announced their intentions for 2008 -- not that we're done with 2004 yet.

Herb from Miami, Florida, wonders if the Republicans are presenting an accurate face to the public. "A Republican National Convention with only moderate Republicans speaking during primetime? Why don't they bring out the real Republicans?"

And a Dr. R.H. from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, would rather the campaign get going in earnest, especially after all the mudslinging of recent weeks. "I would challenge both candidates to stop the usual political [bull] and focus on real issues," he said.

Location, location

Posted: 7:15 p.m. ET
From Richard Shumate, Wires.CNN news editor

Pride of place in convention seating among states appears to be inextricably linked to the their degree of competitiveness, rather than their Republican fidelity.

Right up front -- the 50-yard-line seats, as it were -- are the delegations from Ohio and Florida, both battleground states. On the other hand, delegates from Utah, one of the most Republican states on Earth, are way in the back.

However, both Texas (home of President Bush) and Wyoming (home of Vice President Dick Cheney) snagged prime seats near the podium.

The speaker is in the house

Posted: 2:58 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Only at a political party convention could a high school wrestling coach-turned-congressman get the rock star treatment.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, of Illinois, received the attention of a political rock star during an informal floor appearance. He was surrounded by a scrum of aides, reporters and security men.

At one point, after a brief interview with a reporter, a man wearing Wisconsin delegate credentials approached Hastert and had a snapshot taken of himself with the House chief. Next, a man bearing a copy of Hastert's book "Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics" had the speaker sign it. Eventually the whole band, with Hastert in the center, slowly eased on down the convention floor toward the nearest exit.

Standing her ground

Posted: 1:48 p.m. ET
From Sean Loughlin, producer

Linda Jo Poole is not what you would call a wallflower. With a patriotic ensemble topped by a brightly beaded hat of red, white and blue, Poole, an alternate from Macon, Georgia, holds her own in this city full of often outspoken characters.

But this first-time visitor to New York admits she's a little taken aback by protests from some of the city's liberal denizens. "A girl told me yesterday, 'You make me sick,' " Poole recalled. "And this morning, a man said, 'You disgust me.' "

Poole's response? A warm smile crossed her face. "I said, 'We love you.' You just kill 'em with kindness."

Bush at the firehouse

Posted: 1:40 p.m. ET
From John King, CNN Senior White House Correspondent

A senior administration official says unconfirmed reports that President Bush will watch Vice President Dick Cheney's speech Wednesday night from a New York Fire Department firehouse is merely an option and only under consideration. No final decision has been made for the president's Wednesday schedule, the official says.

The GOP variety show

Posted: 1:18 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

There are elements of the Republican convention presentation -- the short speeches, the occasional video presentations, the buoyant band, the "CJs" (convention jockeys) -- that put one in mind of a TV awards broadcast, or perhaps a 1970s variety show.

It's the band that really drives this home. The arrangements are upbeat and brassy, but not particularly soulful. The music choices have generally been 1970s funk and disco hits -- Earth, Wind & Fire's "Sing a Song," McFadden and Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," Chic's "Good Times," some KC and the Sunshine Band -- though the more white-bread Doobie Brothers song "Takin' It to the Streets" and Marvin Gaye's socially conscious "What's Going On" have also echoed throughout the hall.

Perhaps the most curious choice, though, has been "Good Times," which -- like Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" -- is darker than it appears. In his book "The Heart of Rock and Soul," critic Dave Marsh noted that the song came out during New York's dark times of the late '70s, and the band sounded like it was singing through gritted teeth.

Well, maybe it's the bass line.

Going 'round in circles

Posted: 12:59 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

They call it Madison Square Garden, but it's actually round.

As GOP convention delegates prepared to break from their first session, hospitality suites ringing the cylindrical structure are ready to accommodate.

The skybox rooms are chock full o' food and drink and servers standby to tend to the party's partying faithful.

Web graphics

Posted: 11:57 a.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Clever use of typography in the posters showcasing the URL of the Republican convention site: ""

'Hey, I must be in the front row!'

Posted: 11:38 a.m. ET
From Greg Botelho,

An unidentified woman from southwestern Virginia and another from Fresno, California, are watching their first GOP convention in person -- from what may be the worst nosebleed seats in the house.

With a smile, the Virginia woman said her seats "can't get any worse than this!" As for the convention itself, she said she was ready for whatever the Republicans had to offer.

The woman from Fresno appeared to be overwhelmed by the city and the security. "We've never had anything like this is Fresno!" she exclaimed.

Koch for Bush

Posted: 10:47 a.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

The use of Democrat Ed Koch's face on the banners promoting the RNC in New York makes sense for reasons beyond just the ex-mayor's identification with the Big Apple. Koch just told the convention that he was backing Bush for president.

After the expected roar of applause from delegates, he couldn't resist adding his trademark line: "How'm I doin'?"

New York City welcomes you

Posted: 9:38 a.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

It's no secret that New York -- a city with a 5-to-1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans -- isn't exactly thrilledexternal link with having the GOP convention in its midst.

"No Bush," says a sign spread out over several windows in a building next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, about eight blocks away from Madison Square Garden.

"Make nice," requests banners featuring former New York Mayor Ed Koch (a Democrat) throughout the city.

But this is a very capitalist city, and some stores are making the most of the Republican National Convention coming to town for the first time.

One clothing store near Madison Square Garden managed to appeal to both sides. Sort of.

"Annoying Republican Convention Sale," a sign there read.

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