Larry Stogner blogs from the RNC

Republican National Convention
Thursday, Sept. 4, 5 p.m.

Bob Dole's in St. Paul filling in for his wife, North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole. He's been at a few of these things. As a party leader, as President Ford's running mate in 1976, and as presidential nominee in 1996, he knows his way around the convention floor, but it's getting tougher. Disabled by a World War II wound to his right arm, he's now wearing a bandage on his left hand. Politics without shaking hands is pretty awkward, but Bob Dole is undaunted.

So why isn't wife Elizabeth here? He says her campaign struggled with the question. She's locked in a Senate race that's tighter and more expensive than she would have imagined. Someone suggested she show up at the convention for one night, but husband Bob said a cameo appearance just wouldn't look right. So they just bagged it and concentrated on the campaign back home, especially the fundraising part. He says she's spending up to 7 hours a day on the phone, putting the squeeze on potential donors.

The way the campaign is going, Bob will be back in Tarheel State as soon as this shindig is over.

Republican National Convention
Thursday, Sept. 4, 4 p.m.

Musings from St. Paul, much as I did in Denver, I've jotted down some impressions from the Republican National Convention.

  • Work still underway on the I35 bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Thirteen people died last year when the span collapsed during rush hour.
  • A delegate dressed as Abraham Lincoln on the floor of the Xcel Center. His stovepipe hat could have been a little taller, but his likeness and signature Lincoln beard were "dead on."
  • Way more cops and federal agents than are needed. Most have nothing to do. It's overkill.
  • On Wednesday night the entire Michigan delegation dressed in hockey jerseys in honor of "hockey mom" Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice-presidential running mate.
  • The Texas delegation wearing cowboy hats, all week!
  • Nighttime temperatures dipping into the 40's and high of 70 degrees in Minneapolis in the summer.
  • The roar that went up on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, "Sarah Palin got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Arkansas than Joe Biden did running for President."

More to come!

Republican National Convention
Thursday, Sept. 4

Covering a hurricane is hard. Covering two hurricanes is much harder. But, covering a political convention and two hurricanes simultaneously strains even the largest news operations.

As big as this story is here in St. Paul, it's been secondary to the fear and misery we've seen along the Gulf Coast, and what's anticipated along the eastern seaboard. We have news crews spread along both coasts and also here in Minnesota, where storms a thousand miles away have put a big dent in the GOP's big party.

Yet because of computers and satellites, we can do it. We couldn't have 30 years ago, when news was shot on color film and had to be processed, when only the networks had satellite access. Last night we heard loud explosions outside the ABC News compound near the Xcel Energy Center. Within minutes, literally, pictures of St. Paul police firing "flash-gang" grenades at 400 protesters was being shown around the world.

Pulling this off is a strain on news operations like ours, but what a feeling when it all works out.

Republican National Convention
Wednesday, Sept. 3

It's easy to get a bit urbanized at political conventions. Whether in Denver, St. Paul or most any host city, convention tend to confine delegates and the media to an area that becomes, for all practical purposed, an island, surrounded by police, magnetometers, bomb sniffing dogs and fences.

That changed a bit this morning for the North Carolina delegates to the Republican National Convention. They enjoyed a trip to Lake Minnetonka, one of many hundreds of lakes that dot this beautiful state. The pharmaceutical giant Novartis put on the gala luncheon at the ritzy Lafayette Club where the morning was capped off by a speech from North Carolina Senator Richard Burr. Then boat rides on the cool, windy lake.

By evening it was back to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Back to work, back to the city.

Republican National Convention
Tuesday, Sept. 2

You could see Republicans huddled in small groups today over at the Excel Energy Center. And you just knew what they were talking about; their party's vice-presidential running mate admitted her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

The facial expressions gave them away. They seemed to by saying "don't tell me," or "you are kidding," but there it was. Just when Republicans thought John McCain had made a bold move in naming a running mate, this happens. But John McCain the maverick knew about it going in. She told him, he wanted her anyway. Some have called Sarah Palin a "blue-collar" candidate. And many Republicans point to this controversy as more evidence of that. A normal American housewife dealing with all too normal American family problems, how she handles this in the coming days and weeks will attest to her character and John McCain's judgment.

Republican National Convention
Monday, Sept. 1

It doesn't seem fair. Minneapolis-St. Paul last hosted a GOP convention over 100 years ago. Now after the smaller of the twin cities finally coaxed the Republicans back, Gustav shows up. Even a thousand miles away, it's enough to turn the convention into a mere shadow of what it would have been. Day 1, the president and vice-president were to speak, neither did. And then the evening session was omitted entirely, leaving delegates too little to do but tryout some local restaurants.

The atmosphere is much different from last week's Democratic Convention in Denver. The Excel Energy Center doesn't fell as big as Denver's Pepsi Center. There are almost no celebrities here, political or Hollywood types. People hawking campaign paraphernalia are out numbered by protesters. It's surreal. Maybe things will pick up as the week goes on.

Democratic National Convention

Thursday, August 28

Entry 1
Somethings can't be boxed into categories in these convention blogs. So I'll just throw out some impressions and happenings this week in Denver.

  • A fleet of black SUV's, apparently donated by General Motors, to haul "lesser" VIP's who need the ride, but don't have the security people.
  • Biff Henderson , David Letterman's celebrity stage hand. Biff is from Durham and always tells me he watches me and ABC11 when he's home. He's doing comical convention bits for late night.
  • CNN "taking over" a popular restaurant just outside the Pepsi Center. Humangous neon signs proclaim it the "CNN Grill" and many of it's interviews are done there. Spike Lee was drawing a big crowd there yesterday.
  • NC first lady Mary Easley, always at the side of husband Mike. She appears to be having fun and is more than willing to be interviewed. Unless it's about her costly trips to Europe on the taxpayers dime and a head-spinning increase in her state salary when other state workers are getting very little.
  • John Forlines, 90 years old, the oldest North Carolina delegate to the convention, preparing to run for the NC House. He's never held public Office.
  • The Gary Hooker family of Raleigh. They turned the convention into a family affair, bringing 10 year old Gary Jr. along. Little Gary is doing daily video blogs for his classmates at Bugg Elementary.
  • The incredible proliferation of blackberries and iPhones. It seems at least 25% of everyone at the convention is talking, texting or websurfing.
    More later…

Democratic National Convention

Entry 2
If the foreign press were allowed to vote, Barack Obama would be our next President in a walk. Sharing our ABC News compound in Denver are television news teams from the BBC, Canadian television, Russia, Telemundo, Italy, France, Al Jazeera. I could go on, but you get the picture. Yesterday we walked among the rows of modular units housing these international journalists and tried to get a handle on their reason for being here – what their viewers think about American politics. Emile Baroody, a journalist from Dubai, says Arabs in general are taken with Barack Obama. He says he can't put his finger on why and adds that it might be because his middle name is Hussein. Same for Emilo Cavelli of Italian TV. He says most Europeans seem to be for Obama. I was especially interested in what the Russians are thinking. We caught up with Anton, the Washington Bureau Chief for NTV Russia. He says Russian politics is boring and nothing like the "show" going on here in Denver. Plus, he says, Russians are leary of John McCain and his hard line on the use of military might. He says they think Obama is more balanced. Despite biases, all promised to be fair and balanced by giving the GOP Convention similar coverage next week in Saint Paul.

Democratic National Convention

Entry 3
By now, everyone knows the 20-thousand seat Pepsi Center was nowhere near big enough for Barack Obama. Overnight, technicians began tearing down in the Pepsi Center and moving everything a half-mile away to Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. Between 75 and 80 thousand people are expected there afternoon and evening for the 4th and final day of the convention, capped off by Barack Obama's much anticipated acceptance speech as the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Denver's doing a masterful job making this happen, but it's also a huge headache for the underlings in the trenches. The thousands of police officers, deputies, FBI, ATF and Secret Service agents who sealed off the Pepsi Center – had to devise a totally different plan for securing Mile High Stadium. Bomb-sniffing dogs and mirrors to see under vehicles are just part of the effort. Not to mention Interstate 25 is being closed, along with most streets near the stadium. As for what to expect – it won't quite be what we witnessed on the opening night in Beijing. But, it could be close.

Democratic National Convention

Tuesday, August 26 2:30 p.m.

Walking around Denver's Pepsi Center is what some would call an eye-popper. From one moment to another there's something or someone you never thought you'd see. For starters, the area around the Pepsi Center is sealed off from the rest of Denver. Security is air tight.

Inside two levels of skyboxes encircle the arena floor. And they're all commandeered by the media giants, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc… and the hallways are filled with not only Hollywood types and media heavy weights, but lots of well known politicians. In just a matter of minutes I ran into former President Jimmy Carter, former Presidential candidate John Kerry and our own Governor Mike Easley.

It's pretty heady experience, even at my 5th convention. When this stops being fun it's time to look for another line of work.

View the latest photo gallery from the convention. Democratic National Convention

Tuesday, August 26 8:30 a.m.

What if they had a convention and the delegates were outnumbered by the media? It certainly feels that way in Denver…

Journalists from around the world have descended on the mile high city. The BBC, Al Jazeera, Telemundo and dozens you've never heard of.

The ABC Compound alone is like a small town and everyone's in a rush. Lie positions are in the 20 thousand seat Pepsi Center. But, all the wires and cables find their way into the ABC Compound outside, where the Diane Sawyer's and Charlie Gibson's and all the engineers and producers make sense of it all and make sure that my news reports are fed and my live shots look good.

It takes miles of cables and wires – literally to make it all happen – not to mention the satellites involved. On television it looks so easy, but viewers seldom get to see the chaos behind the scenes.

It's just as well.

View the latest photo gallery from the convention.

Democratic National Convention

Monday, August 25

Denver - the home of Buffalo Bill Cody and the unsinkable Molly Brown. The mile high city is now seeking to make a new kind of history, hosting the first political convention to nominate an African American for President.

Our flight from Raleigh/Durham to Denver was sold out – packed with many of the 130th NC delegation heading to the Democratic Convention. Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former John Edwards campaign chairman Ed Turlington were among those who'll descend on the 20 thousand seat Pepsi Center for today's opening gavel.

Even for a convention, security is unprecedented with thousands of Denver Police, Secret Service and FBI agents manning key choke points around the convention site and nearby Invesco field.

The crush of media here is staggering. It took over an hour to get all our equipment through a pretty sophisticated ring of security that included magnetometer and bomb sniffing dogs.

All of this for a kind of kabuki theater in which there is very little plot and the outcome is known by one and all.

More to come as the convention kicks off.

View the latest photo gallery from the convention.

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