Having been delayed by Hurricane Gustav, the GOP is set to kick the Republican National Convention and John McCain's coronation into high gear tonight.
Ironically, Gustav may have done McCain a huge favor. For starters, it gave the Arizona senator a chance to take a mulligan on his Katrina performance. As Katrina hit landfall three years ago, McCain was blowing out the candles on his birthday cake with President Bush. This time around he visited Mississippi to see how storm preparations were coming along.
Speaking of the sitting president, the change in scheduling at the RNC afforded McCain the perfect excuse to keep W as far from the proceedings as possible. Bush had originally been slated to speak Monday night, but was kept away by the storm. Now, he won't get any closer to Minneapolis than a satellite feed from the White House. Giving Bush's Nixon-ian approval ratings and the strained relationship between the two men, this can only help McCain. Additionally, the storm helped to distract the nation's attention from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's pregnant, unwed, teenage daughter, Bristol. And best for all parties involved -- Republican, Democratic, press and public -- the event will only drag on for three days.
Yes, the Republicans are left with some serious scheduling difficulties. Just this morning it was announced that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had been scratched from tonight's festivities, having been replaced by former Sen. Fred Thompson or Tennessee and Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who had been rumored to be McCain's first choice for veep.
"I'm not going to spend any time tonight attacking Sen. Obama," Lieberman told CNN, adding that he will explain "why I am an independent Democrat voting for Sen. McCain."
The speech will, of course, center around the two senators' shared stance on the war in Iraq and McCain's military experience.
On Wednesday all eyes will be on embattled VP candidate Sarah Palin, who must make the party faithful look past all the recent revelations and allegations that have dogged her. She must remind the assembled crowd of her strong anti-abortion beliefs, her support for oil drilling, her anti-corruption crusades and her executive experience. Between the announcement of her daughter's pregnancy, the ongoing ethics investigation into the firing of an Alaska State Trooper that was married to her sister-in-law, her past involvement with a group that wants to see Alaska secede from the U.S. and her support for the "Bridge to Nowhere," Palin will have to answer a lot of questions in the coming days. But for one night she can focus the nation's attention on her accomplishments and beliefs.
Finally, the belle of the ball, John Sidney McCain will formally accept his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States, an honor he has pursued for nearly a decade. One can expect a long treatise on American Exceptionalism, a call to service to one's country and an acknowledgment that Barack Obama is a gifted and compassionate man who is simply not prepared to face the challenges at home and abroad that America is confronting.