, Minnesota
Xcel Energy Center
September 1st - 4th 2008

Presidential Nominee:
John Sidney McCain of Arizona
Vice Presidential Nominee:
Sarah L. Palin of Alaska
 
The 39th Republican National Convention in 2008, located at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was an important milestone in the presidential race and rallying point for the Republican Party. Thousands flocked to the location to volunteer, protest, report, or simply observe the ongoing festivities. They sought to make a difference in some way and one thing was certain, the administration of the previous 8 years was imminently ending, and the party needed to rally behind a new potential leader. The strongest candidates were former Arizona senator John McCain, Mitt Romney (former governor of Massachusetts), and Ron Paul (former congressman from Texas), though the latter two were essentially only listed nominally, as both were far behind McCain and Romney had already endorsed him.

Nevertheless, spanning September 1st to the 4th, the GOP convention promised to be a grand affair. Even during a growing economic recession, the importance of this event was undeniable. Costing an estimate $82 million dollars to finance, many predicted in the months before that it would return nearly double that sum, benefiting the St. Paul-Minneapolis area by $150-160 million. The Meet Minneapolis', Official Convention + Visitor Center cited $156 million in earnings to the city Boston, MA, when the 2004 Democratic National Convention convened as precedent.

Naturally, such a lavish political event draws a host of well known figures. Speakers for the event included such high society members as from New York City mayor Rudolph 'Rudy' Giuliani, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and even independent Democrat Joe Lieberman. Nevertheless, past President George W. Bush and past Vice President Dick Cheney were noticeably not present. Former president Bush et al were hampered from attending on account of Hurricane Gustav's destructive force. This, however, may have benefited the Republican candidates for nominee since the administration's waning popularity was considered by some to be a liability. Just as mishandling the Gustav situation could have had a strong backlash.

Additionally, the inclement weather was not the only potential disruption the conventioneers faced. Many protesters descended on the convention, including some self-defined anarchists. While permits were issued to approximately 50,000 people, about 10,000 marched against the war in Iraq, poverty and other issues. Helping police keep the peace were 150 Minnesota National Guard members, though this did not entirely prevent conflict and damage. Though most demonstrators were peaceful, some acted quite violently, clashing with police, puncturing tires, and even in one instance setting fire to a dumpster and moving it toward a police vehicle. According to the Boston Globe, there were even some well-known press members arrested, such as Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, and Associated Press photographer Matt Rouke. Though, one of the largest detainments occurred on the final day when a group of roughly 250 demonstrators was arrested. Even worse was when delegates from Connecticut were reportedly harassed and assaulted as they descended from their bus. One of the group, delegate Fred Biebel, admitted to KMSP-TV it was a frightening experience, but not isolated in the history of Republican conventions. He recalled an incident during the traditional GOP gathering in 1968 when protesters broke windows of a bus containing delegates.

Despite attempted interruptions on two fronts, the program ran relatively smoothly. The number of people who did arrive is estimated to be in the vicinity of 45,000, including 10,000 volunteers, approximately 2,380 delegates, and about of 15,000 members of the fourth estate. The first day, aptly themed 'Service' was diminished, but also diverted to attention of the effects of Hurricane Gustav. Nevertheless, the 2nd day of 'Reform,' the 3rd day of 'Prosperity,' and 4th day of 'Peace' went as scheduled, minus the absentee speakers. Coincidently, the overall theme ascribed to this occasion of 'Country First' corresponded well with presumptive nominee John McCain's military service background.

Ultimately, McCain garnered plenty of votes, beating out the other candidates almost unanimously. In front of a record audience of 38.9 million, a number of viewers roughly 500,000 more than his Democratic opponent Barack Obama, McCain delivered his acceptance speech to wrap up the convention and move on toward the presidency.

Unfortunately for McCain, the presidency was not to be his. Barack Obama solidly triumphed in the presidential election. And while John McCain did not obtain the presidential position, his campaign did form an interesting parallel to the convention. His will be remembered for living an important lesson: even with complications, setbacks, and a late start in life, much can still be accomplished with determination and fortitude.



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