Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was looking about as lonely as ... well, as a Democrat at a Republican convention.
Rybak, who was at RiverCentre Monday afternoon waiting to be interviewed by Fox News, was feeling a little "political wind shear" after a full week leading the Minnesota delegation at the Democratic convention in Denver.
Despite his work bringing the Republicans to the Twin Cities, he won't be greeting delegates from the podium in St. Paul this week. He didn't expect to, what with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman in the GOP ranks.
"What I'm doing is walking down the streets, greeting delegates and standing by whenever the host committee needs me," he said. "It's very important, even though I'm a Democrat, to be the best host I can be."
As for differences between the DNC and RNC, Rybak said he noticed "a passion gap" between the two events. The crowd in Denver was much younger, more diverse and enthusiastic than the people he's seen so far this week in the Twin Cities, he said. And what about John McCain's choice for vice president, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin? "She seems perfectly fine," Rybak said, "but it seems to be a very impulsive choice."
McCain's response to Hurricane Gustav, directing that all but official business be called off Monday, received a big endorsement from Asa Hutchinson, a former undersecretary for border and transportation security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Hutchinson, a guest speaker Monday at a gathering of the Minnesota delegates, said that "whenever he had a choice to make, he decided to provide leadership." Hutchinson said McCain realized that the convention "could be a distraction from our nation's response efforts."
While the GOP schedule was being altered on Sunday because of the hurricane, Nancy Haapoja said she and other delegates from Minnesota were at first unaware of the changes. "We didn't know what was going on. We were at our reception," said Haapoja, a delegate from Redwood Falls. "I had people texting me and saying, 'We're sorry your events are being canceled,' and I'm going, 'Oh, really?'"
Haapoja said she and others were at the Minneapolis Convention Center listening to country singer Lee Greenwood. "Lee Greenwood was singing, you know, patriotic songs about America," she said. "We were just into 'God Bless America.'"
For at least some Minnesota GOP delegates, the news media will never be forgiven for blaming President Bush for the response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago. "Absolutely, absolutely," said Amy Anderson, an alternate from Waconia and chairwoman of the Carver County Republicans. "It was a failure at the local level -- not the people, but the government, the local government [that did not] call the alarm."
Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie agreed. "Anyone who has ever dealt with any of those disasters knows that the local response is first and foremost," said Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. "To say that, somehow, that the president, you know, was the person who made mistakes or who didn't do things, was a total fallacy."
At a coffee klatsch for the media Monday morning, Coleman had high praise for his Democratic colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
"She's doing an extraordinary job," Coleman said. "When Amy Klobuchar runs for reelection, you're not going to see me criticizing Amy Klobuchar."
Which is not to say that he won't be supporting the GOP challenger, Coleman added.
Klobuchar's term ends in 2012.
Klobuchar supports Al Franken for Coleman's Senate seat, but she hasn't been uncritical of her fellow Democrat.
Shortly before the state party convention in June, she called on Franken to acknowledge that a racy article he wrote for Playboy in 2000 was "entirely inappropriate."
Two weeks ago, Franken campaigned for the first time with Klobuchar, who said that his passion reminded her of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.