Thursday morning

MGM’s Harry Sloan, a McCain supporter from the start of his presidential bid, was in the Xcel Center last night for Sarah Palin’s speech, sitting in a skybox with McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis and other staffers.

“The stage was set last night for a lot of dramatic events,” Sloan says, “and she aced it.”

Sloan’s wife, Florence, is a California delegate, and he plans to return to the Xcel Center tonight for McCain’s speech, expected to be made in a town-hall type of setting.

“I walked away from last night firmly believing that she could only be a positive,” he says.

He says that McCain has earned great respect in Democratic-leaning Hollywood, even among those who may not agree with his positions, and the same may be true for Palin, whose personality stands in contrast to more strident figures like Pat Buchanan.

“On the one hand, she is new and exciting, which is exactly what the entertainment industry looks for,” he says, adding, “On the other hand, social conservative positions are not going to be well received by the majority in liberal Hollywood.”

“I wouldn’t rule out the idea that some in the Hollywood community will really like her intelligence and spunk, and maybe some of the social issues will be overcome,” Sloan says.

At the very least, some voters will give the ticket another look, and Sloan estimates that maybe “25% of the Democrats are open to hear what McCain has to say.”

The scene was quite different in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, as a giant concert by Rage Against the Machine at Target Center made for a show of police in riot gear as the event let out. There were no reports of major incidents, but the group, dressed like Guantanomo detainees, has a history of performing at conventions with provocative material. A 2000 appearance at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles ended in a clash between police and attendees in the parking lot of the Staples Center.

Things were calmer several blocks away, where Daughtry performed at the ONE Campaign and RIAA party at a venue called EPIC (it was formerly Prince’s Glam Slam). And the Charlie Daniels Band entertained delegates at the former Milwaukee Road Depot.

At the CNN Grill, one patron was still miffed at the media coverage of Palin. He told me that were Keith Olbermann to walk in, he would “punch him in the nose.” He apparently didn’t share the same feeling for the CNN personnel providing the free food and drink.

A last note: President Bush wasn’t mentioned on Wednesday, but his penchant for mangling speech certainly was in the ether. The text of Sarah Palin’s speech spelled the word “nuclear” and “newclear,” apparently to avoid a common Bush-ism.

More on the star power from Los Angeles Times’ Tina Daunt here.