Repubs & Dems, stirred gently

What do you get when you mix Republicans, Democrats, free libations and the media? Some places, an all-out catfight. But not at Sam and Sylvia Kaplan's genteel convention party Sunday night.

The idea was to set a positive tone with a show of across-the-aisle conviviality, with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad as featured guests. "It's a reflection of the comfortable brand of politics we have in Minnesota -- most of the time," said Sam Kaplan.

Ramstad, whom Kaplan introduced as "every Democrat's favorite Republican," looked around his hosts' more-than-spacious townhome on the Mississippi and said, "It's good to see how Democrats live -- and that Section 8 housing is working."

Other GOP heavyweights in the crowd included pickle magnate Gedney Tuttle, Jim and Carmen Campbell and Metropolitan Council chair Peter Bell and his wife, Sharon Bottroff.

The announcement that today's convention proceedings would be curtailed left many wannabe revelers wondering -- quietly -- if the same would hold true for the parties and the celebratory mood.

"People are still here, and they still need to meet and talk and eat and drink," said Tina Smith, chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Stan Hubbard was overheard to say that he thought Hurricane Gustav might actually benefit the convention. When asked why, he said, "because Bush won't show up. You can draw your own conclusions." He also didn't see the hurricane as a reason for either party to pull its political ads. "Maybe for a day," he said. "But I think political advertising is American."

Rybak was asked if he really thought he'd get a crowd of conventioneers to join him on a 6:30 a.m. jog today. "I think we'll have an OK turnout," he said. "Nothing's going to stop me from making Republicans sweat."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has no plans to join him: "That's his deal. My job is to cover the 4 a.m. bar closings."

• • •

We hear "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart and ABC's Sam Donaldson were on the same NWA flight from Denver. Stewart was stretched out in first class, while Donaldson -- no rich white oligarch he -- was wedged into a middle seat among the commoners.

• • •

They were coming to the Twin Cities to trumpet the lingering need for repair to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Now they don't even know if their own houses will be standing when they take the stage tonight.

"I just finished fixing up my house from Katrina," said drummer Johnny Vidacovich, one of a couple dozen musicians -- including soul legend Irma Thomas, members of the Meters and jazz star Henry Butler -- scheduled to perform at an invite-only Friends of New Orleans concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Some considered bowing out of the gig, but said they realized that there was as great a need as ever for their concert here.

"People say we should move our houses to higher ground, but the point is you can't just pick up and move the culture of New Orleans, which is exactly what we were coming here to promote," said band manager Reuben Williams.

Other RNC parties are altering their plans for Gustav. Tonight's Spirits of Minnesota bash at Solera has been renamed the Spirits of the Gulf Coast and will be a fundraiser for the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund.

Chris Riemenschneider and Rochelle Olson contributed to this column.

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