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. "We're generally nice to one another.'"

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 Bottorff.

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.

"Proper deference was shown [by leadership] today, and think we'll have to take it one day at a time," Ramstad said.

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

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."

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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, wearing a Mets cap, while Donaldson -- no rich white oligarch he -- was wedged into a middle seat among the commoners.

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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.

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About 10,000 people took in the convention's first official bash Saturday night, snacking on Minnesota food, hobnobbing with Minnesota celebrities and basking in glorious Minnesota weather. Although it was dubbed "The Media Party," most of the national press, still weary from their week in Denver, skipped the event, at the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theatre. But local personalities were abundant, while Rybak and Coleman greeted guests with the smiles and handshakes of a car salesman.

The only downside: White wine at the open bars ran out early, forcing our correspondent to drink a bottled Cosmopolitan.

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Apparently it takes more than a national political convention to make downtown a hoppin' Sunday destination.

Driving from Uptown, you'd never know the convention was in town -- save for a quartet of Rasta-haired wayfarers scavenging cardboard boxes who had the aura of out-of-town protesters -- or they just flew in from Burning Man.

Sidewalks were nearly deserted as empty shuttle buses toiled along their routes and a dozen formidable uniformed cops with a German shepherd swept the bronze-elf-infested mounds in front of the U.S. Courthouse.

At the Chambers Hotel, black-clad doormen greeted black-clad men wearing earpieces who watched as black-clad RNC honchos pulled up in black limousines. Clearly, security is the new black.

Word was that the Chambers was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's destination before he changed plans to remain in California. Was the staff bummed? Surprised? Relieved? We'll never know. No one shoots the breeze around black-clad men wearing earpieces.

Along Nicollet Mall, two anarchists strolled in their masks and kerchiefs, sharing a private joke and enjoying the beautiful evening, their work apparently done for the day.

Across from the Hennepin County Government Center, a policeman and transit officer sat in the silence, seeming a little bewildered by how quietly one of the decade's largest events to hit the Twin Cities had begun.

Rochelle Olson, Chris Riemenschneider, Neal Justin and Kim Ode contributed to this column.