I'm here in the Xcel Center for the first session of the Republican National Convention, and already it feels so different from last week. The jumbo-tron outside is broadcasting Fox News' coverage of Hurricane Gustav, and the delegates and press are quieter and more subdued than last week.
In today's abbreviated program both Laura Bush and Cindy McCain are set to speak, and according to the convention conference call, there will be no music in between their speeches keeping the mood respectful and somber. Both are set to appeal for aid to the Gulf Coast region. The program opened asking everyone in the hall to text donations to the Red Cross.
The delegates I've spoken to so far are nonetheless excited — the Texas delegation in their matching cowboy hats stand out for sure, and I'm wearing my Republican red shoes and enjoying every second of it. The general opinion is that the party is handling the convention exactly right given the circumstances and there's an overriding air of support for Gov. Palin, while Obama has declared her daughter's news, "off limits."