Remainder of GOP convention as uncertain as the weatherby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio,
Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
Even before the gavel opens the Republican National Convention in St. Paul today, organizers and suppliers are recalibrating their expectations.
Republicans have already scratched much of the opening day's events while they wait for Hurricane Gustav to come ashore on the other end of the Mississippi in just a few hours.
St. Paul, Minn. — There are 4,000 pounds of Chateaubriand steak waiting for Republicans in downtown St. Paul -- and 12,000 shrimp tails.
That's what Wildside Catering has on hand for delegates and others at the Republican National Convention. The company and its concessions partner, Centerplate, will serve about 95 percent of the food inside St. Paul's convention center during the RNC. But despite two years of planning, they're not exactly sure right now who's going to eat it.
Kathy O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the Xcel Center, said caterers are working on Plan B.
"They're going to be getting in touch with the 130 events that were scheduled to take place, to see if different adjustments can be made -- if they need to cancel plans, change plans -- and we'll adjust accordingly," O'Connor said. "The way we're looking to operate right now is to move the events that were scheduled for (Monday) to Tuesday. So things are really being rescheduled at this point, not canceled."
But just down the road, dinner plans were turning to regrets already.
At Forepaugh's restaurant in St. Paul, half of Sunday's dinner reservations didn't show, according to manager Greg Awada.
"We're ramped up and ready for throngs of people, but this is the worst possible scenario, in that the convention is still going on, but we don't know what to expect as far as people," Awada said. "We have to be alert and ready for the big numbers, but it doesn't look like they're going to be there any longer."
The story was similar at the landmark Mancini's Char House on West 7th Street. CNN staffers skipped a dinner on Saturday, and Katie Couric and her CBS colleagues passed on dinner reservations on Sunday. They're reportedly heading for work on the Gulf Coast instead.
Connecticut Republicans canceled their plans for a Mississippi riverboat cruise this afternoon, in favor of something that might be more appropriate to the crisis in the Gulf.
But in some sense, events like national political conventions are just too big to fail. Catering and hotel contracts typically include guarantees, whether anyone shows up or not. Airline tickets are non-refundable and police forces can't be put on indefinite stand-by. The bills go out for buses and generators, cranes, amplifiers and fencing regardless of who shows up.
Sammy Hagar took to the stage as scheduled Sunday night at First Avenue, and hundreds of Republicans turned out to hear him.
Even the convention's political opponents are staying the course. Organizers of Monday's march against the war in Iraq and the Republican Convention say they're going ahead with their rally plans, regardless of any changes to the agenda inside the Xcel Energy Center.
But clearly, it isn't the political extravaganza even war protesters were hoping for.
At a Sunday briefing, Rick Davis, Sen. John McCain's campaign manager, told throngs preparing for the convention's first day that activities would be "limited to just a few essentials." He couldn't guarantee that the presumptive nominee himself would even show up to accept his party's blessing in person.
"Obviously, a lot of this is very new to us. We've spent a good deal of time with the staff and organizers of the convention, trying to determine what are the things that we think are appropriate at this time," Davis said. "We continue to focus on that as our primary activity and, as I said before, anything beyond tomorrow is all speculation."
Republicans say they hope to convene, adopt rules and a party platform, and elect convention officers late Monday afternoon. Their only other legal requirement is to have a simple majority of delegates on hand to cast votes to nominate a candidate for the White House.
The nomination could be accomplished as soon as Tuesday.
Tim Nelson is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.