ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – President Bush’s commitment to AIDS relief, particularly in Africa, may be the one achievement that is widely respected around the world and across the political spectrum
You’ll probably hear one word from Laura Bush’s speech again and again this convention: Safe. We’ve kept you safe. It’s a major theme of the GOP convention.
What she didn’t talk about are the kind of achievements that two-term president Bill Clinton talked about in 2000, when he walked into the arena and his accomplishments scrolled across the stage: economics, economics, economics. You didn’t hear any of that from her, and probably won’t hear much from anyone else.
St. PAUL (CNN) – Laura Bush is not only the most popular member of the Bush administration, she is the only popular member of the Bush administration since Colin Powell left.
Another very popular Republican woman: You may find over the course of the evening that there’s more enthusiasm for Sarah Palin than for John McCain.
It can’t be an accident that they’re showcasing women — they’re going after the Clinton vote.
There was an incredibly moving tribute to Navy seal, Michael Monsoor, who threw himself on a grenade to save fellow seals in 2006, in the process giving his own life.
He received the Medal of Honor posthumously. His sister is here. She received a sustained standing ovation. Several other medal recipients from previous wars are also being honored - leading to the most exercised this crowd has been so far tonight. Now two dozen former POWs from Vietnam are being honored - old soldiers make for poignant moments.
Laura Bush, in her second appearance at this convention gets big applause too. She is the most popular person in the White House right now - her approval rating is over 60 percent.
She puts her seal of approval on Sarah Palin: "I'm proud the nation's first female vice-president will be a republican woman."
Orson Swindle was a very big Ross Perot supporter in 1992. Perot had a special bond with veterans – which helps explain Swindle’s relationship with both Perot and McCain.
They’re beginning the evening with a tribute to those who highlight a portion of McCain’s life story: his time as a POW.
You know, John Kerry ran on his military record in 2004. And what he discovered was a lot of voters respected and admired his military record but wondered: why exactly does that make him qualified to be president? You just wonder, what does it have to do with solving the problems we have now?
George H.W. Bush (the Dad) and Barbara Bush just walked into the auditorium of the Republican National Convention and got a standing ovation.
They'll soon listen to their son, slated to beam in via satellite from the White House.
Next up, a first responder to the Minneapolis bridge collapse last year. They are currently showing video of her crawling into a partially submerged car.
As Republicans gather tonight for their convention, they face three looming challenges, in my judgment. Would welcome your thoughts:
(1) Regain the momentum in this presidential campaign: Two weeks ago, Republicans had successfully set up this election as a referendum on Barack Obama and his readiness to be president. And John McCain was surging upward; he had the "Big Mo," as George H.W. Bush used to say. But in the wake of a successful Democratic convention and controversies swirling around McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, the conversation has shifted dramaticallly. Now, as this convention starts, a growing number of voters are asking: is the McCain-Palin ticket up to this? In short, it is becoming a referendum now about the GOP ticket, not the Democratic ticket. And as those questions arise, the Democrats are rising: recent polls show them, on average, with about a 6 point lead - up from a virtual tie two weeks ago. So the Republicans have to reverse that tide here.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – Republican National Committee co-chair Jo
Ann Davidson mistakenly referred to the party's presumptive vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, as "Sarah Pawlenty" at the Republican National Convention Tuesday.
Palin, the governor of Alaska, was a surprise choice to join Sen. John McCain on the Republican ticket. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had been considered one of the front-runners for the slot.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – Sarah Palin had been scheduled to receive an award from the Republican National Coalition for Life on Tuesday to celebrate her opposition to abortion rights, but pulled out of the event last night, presumably to work on her vice presidential nomination speech.
Though many of the Republicans sipping wine and beer at the "Life of the Party" event knew that Palin's plans had changed, others were surprised and disappointed by the news.
Robert and Cam Carlson of Fairbanks, Alaska, each sporting red "Palin '06" buttons from her gubernatorial race, understood Palin's last-minute cancellation.
"She's got a higher calling now," Robert said, referring to her much anticipated appearance at the convention on Wednesday night. The couple called to mind how they had shuttled Palin around Fairbanks in their car during the 2006 race, and gushed about her authenticity and down-to-earth demeanor.
Another anti-abortion advocate, Morton Blackwell of Arlington, Virginia, was asked if he was upset Palin couldn't make it.
"Yeah, but clearly she is working on the speech, its extremely important," he said. "I understand it. I'm not happy about it. They should have walked her in and out and let her wave and leave without talking."
Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafley, founder of the Republican National Coalition for Life, told the audience she was "very disappointed" Palin had to cancel. But she nevertheless commended the new running mate for energizing the party's grassroots.
"It is so exciting the way Sarah Palin has invigorated the Republican Party," Schlafley said. "All those people who were holding back and not sure, they're all excited to go to work and elect the McCain-Palin ticket this year."
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham filled in for Palin.
1. How rough will Republican speakers get with Barack Obama? If they try to insinuate that Obama is somehow foreign or unpatriotic, it could backfire badly. Or if speakers use Obama’s middle name.
2. Will the speakers try to link McCain with the Bush Administration’s record? Or will they try to define McCain as the real candidate of change?
The hometown boy, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, is getting some almost-prime time exposure at the podium now.
Coleman is a big GOP hero for winning a Senate seat in the 2002 race against former senator, vice president, and 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale.
He was once a member of the Democratic Party (known in Minnesota as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party), and is a former mayor of St. Paul - the site of the this years Republican convention.
Coleman currently faces a tough senate re-election race against former Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken.
Read Coleman's full speech after the jump