In the Arena

Tuesday evening

I’m sitting in the very chilly Xcel Center, waiting for the Republican National Convention to resume, as a band plays light jazz on a glowing stage that looks like it came from the set of the game show “Cross Wits.”

It’s still early, but the arena is quite a contrast to the Pepsi Center. The atmosphere is much less frantic, and the environs itself are a tad more accessible. Patrons in skyboxes leave their doors open, meaning that anyone can see the parade of donors, lobbyists and host committee funders come in and out. Moreover, the design of the center is more airy, meaning that there are more vantage points from which to view the stage.

The arena is ringed by the usual assortment of network news skyboxes and the McCain-Palin campaign slogan, “Country First.” One delegation has taken that to heart, as they are all wearing cowboy hats. I guess they are not from Maine.

The backdrop for all convention speakers is a giant sky blue screen, which perhaps makes up for the ill-fated green backdrop the McCain campaign used in June when it tried to counter Barack Obama’s speech, also in Xcel, upon securing his nomination.

They are paying tribute to Gerald Ford, who was once a fixture of GOP conventions, and is of another era compared to the politics of today.

John Boehner is onstage as the first speaker up, and he’s giving an indication of where the week will be headed: he’s pitching the GOP as the “party of reform,” he is hitting Nancy Pelosi hard for not allowing a vote on an energy bill, and not stopping the earmark process.

“With John McCain and Sarah Palin, Republicans are reclaiming our roots,” he said.

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