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US elections 2008

Page last updated at 03:59 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 04:59 UK

Republican Convention diary

Max Deveson, Mike Bayham and Jennifer Copestake


Republican Party delegate Mike Bayham joins the BBC's Max Deveson and Jennifer Copestake to report on the drama, tension and razzmatazz of this week's Republican Convention.

JENNIFER COPESTAKE: CULT GATHERING

3 September: 0030 local time (0530 GMT)

If the nomination for the Republican party presidential candidate had been decided by the quantity of yard signs alone, Ron Paul would have coasted to victory. Of course it wasn't, so Paul found himself at his own cult gathering along with over 10,000 die-hard supporters. Many were clad in 9-11 Conspiracy T-shirts.

I met one woman who had been following the "Ron-voy" across the country to Minneapolis. She told me I would find total peace of mind if I joined her at their campsite 25 miles north of the city.

Sitting across from her was this man from Texas, who like everyone else I've met in the twin cities so far told me about the importance of having a gun.

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A Texan gives his views on gun ownership

Wandering around backstage with fellow blogger Mike, we ran into former Governor of Minnesota and staunch libertarian, Jesse "the Body" Ventura.

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Jesse Ventura's opinions on the presidential race

MAX DEVESON: COUNTRY FIRST

2 September: 2230 local time (0330 GMT)

Tonight’s two keynote speeches were very different in tone, but both Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman did what the Republicans need to do if their convention is to be a success.

Mr Thompson gave the audience exactly what it craved: high praise for grassroots favourite Sarah Palin, mockery of Barack Obama and a detailed account of John McCain’s actions during his time in Vietnam, both as a naval pilot and a prisoner-of-war.

He also had a few harsh words for the media, which he accused of being “in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows”.

The delegates loved it, and prime-time TV star Fred Thompson no doubt went down well with the prime time TV audience as well.

President Bush spoke to the convention via a satellite link, which gave his speech a slightly disconnected feel. Nevertheless, Democrats will no doubt feature his full-throated endorsement of John McCain in future campaign adverts.

Apart from Mr Thompson’s, the most important speech of the night came from Democrat-turned-Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

If Mr Thompson’s speech was aimed at the party’s base, Mr Lieberman’s was explicitly aimed at independents and Democrats watching at home.

And his overt attacks on Barack Obama will leave him with few friends in his former party.

He gave the Republicans a succession of anti-Obama quotes which they will be able to use and re-use and which - coming from an ex-Democrat - will be extraordinarily powerful.

His speech was listened to respectfully by the partisan crowd, although his references to Mr McCain’s battles against “corrupt Republican lobbyists” and support for immigration reform and measures to tackle climate change received only tepid applause.

But when he accused Mr Obama of voting to withdraw funding from American troops on the battlefield, the boos were deafening.

This was a night when the “country first” rhetoric of Day One made way for politics red in tooth and claw.

Prepare for more of the same over the next two days.

MAX DEVESON: BURNING BRIDGES?

2 September: 1800 local time (2300 GMT)

Tonight's schedule will feature speeches from President George W Bush (live via satellite) and former presidential candidate and US Senator Fred Thompson (perhaps best-known to many as the star of the US drama series Law and Order).

President Bush is unlikely to spring any surprises on the audience.

We can expect him to talk about his efforts to relieve the victims of Hurricane Gustav, praise John McCain's military service and laud the Arizona senator's stance on the Iraq "surge" policy.

Mindful of the president's virtually subterranean approval ratings, the McCain camp are also likely to have asked him to list the occasions on which the senator has disagreed with him.

The most interesting speech of the night is likely to be that of Senator Joe Lieberman, who ran against Mr Bush as Al Gore's (Democratic) running-mate in 2000.

Mr Lieberman has since left the Democratic Party, and is a close personal friend and prominent supporter of John McCain's.

Will he burn all his bridges with his former party tonight by trashing Barack Obama and Joe Biden?

Watch this space to find out...

OUR DIARISTS

Mike Bayham is a Republican delegate from the state of Louisiana. He is chairman of the New Orleans Young Republicans and has served on the Louisiana Republican State Committee since 1996. He's pledged to back John McCain for the party's presidential nomination, though he personally supported Mike Huckabee in the primaries. "I guess you could call me a Reagan Conservative," he says. "I believe the party should stand by its social conservative base, while also reaching out to new voters. The GOP is known for being too stuffy - I think it needs to be a Big Tent."

At the age of 34, this is already Mike's fourth convention. "On the floor of the convention, if you are a delegate, you are officially on the same par as congressmen, governors and wealthy power brokers. Among the people I have met at previous conventions are a future president (George W. Bush in 1996), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani," he says. "I can't imagine any other country having a political event like this."

Max Deveson, 30, is the BBC News website's Washington reporter. He joined the BBC in 2001 to work as a political analyst in Westminster, later moving to the online world news team. He has an obsessive interest in the US and its politics and was particularly excited to land an interview with Ted Kennedy on his first assignment in Washington this year. When not obsessing about US politics, Max enjoys attempting to play Iron and Wine songs on the guitar.

Jennifer Copestake, 25, is an online video producer for World News America. She's been with the programme since its first broadcast in October 2007. After the conventions she'll be video-blogging from a BBC election bus on a 38-day road trip across the country. Jennifer was born in Canada and has reported for the CBC, the Hill Times, the Observer and More 4 News. She's been in Washington since early summer, but will return one day to London, where she lives with her fiance and two cats.



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