How to Survive the Republican National Convention

Two years ago, when the organizers of the 2008 Republican National Convention sat down to discuss the site of their future fete, St. Paul seemed a sensible choice. Milk-fed. Midwestern. The perfect place to throw a party for the Grand Old Party: In fact, the Republican elite had gathered in Minnesota once before, in 1892, backing incumbent President Benjamin Harrison, which led to the GOP vacating the White House, but, well…that’s another story.

The point is, McCain and Company are coming—and, with them, a horde of Rovians and Rockefellers, journalists and jingoists, lobbyists and protesters, young Republicans and (thanks to special bar-close times) late-night publicans. Wondering how you can join the party or dodge the horde? How you can be a good host or still manage to score a dinner reservation? Volunteer or protest? Read on.

How to Be a Good Host

Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, libertarian or veterinarian, most Minnesotans can agree on one thing: We should treat RNC-goers as our guests. With that in mind, we asked local etiquette expert Angelyn Davis to offer some helpful hints to make that first impression a big win, no recount necessary. ¶ First, memorize this mantra: Preparedness is key, especially if you’re actually planning on hosting a convention-goer in your home, office, business, or backyard: Brush up on your Minnesota history, e.g. we were once the reddest of red states; we haven’t hosted a national party convention since 1892; we’re actually home to 11,842 lakes, etc. Second, a small, Republican-friendly but locally produced gift is always appreciated. Some possibilities: PastureLand cheese, a book by Vince Flynn, or—particularly apropos—some red meat from Cannon Falls’s Thousand Hills Cattle Company. ¶ Next, come up with some talking points. If you’re comfortable discussing the finer points of Medicare, Part D, good luck and Godspeed. But if you subscribe to the no-religion, no-politics rule of discourse—or if you been known to carry a “Hot for Hillary” coffee mug around the office—perhaps you ought to come up some other potential conversational fodder. One possibility is talking about the non-political aspects of the RNC: how it’s supposed to bring in $160 million to the local economy; how it takes 10,000 volunteers to stage the event. If all else fails, do what Minnesotans do best: Talk about the weather.

How to Avoid the Crowd

For most Twin Cities residents, steering clear of the RNC is going to be about as easy as snowmobiling to Miami: 45,000 delegates, alternates, VIPs, and media folks are expected to descend upon the area for the gathering. Still, if you’re the kind of person who skews more left than right, who wants to avoid the hubbub, or who simply goes into convulsions upon hearing the words “capital gains,” you’re in luck: We’ve found a few shows where it’s unlikely there will be a Republican in sight:

1. Wellstone! This play, a tribute to the diminutive college professor, lefty icon, and former U.S. senator, opens on September 2, the second day of the convention. If you spot a suit in the crowd at this play, chances are that they are either a) lost, or b) with the FBI. Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd. S., St. Louis Park, 952-381-3499

2. Lewis Black:
The ranting comedian comes to town on September 4, the last night of the convention, when John McCain will take the podium to accept the Republican nomination. If the timing isn’t enough to keep GOPers away, Black’s routine, during which he mercilessly ridicules the missteps of the Bush administration, probably will. Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-673-0404

3. Rage Against the Machine: Earlier this summer, RAM guitarist Tom Morello hinted that the politically inclined rockers may show up—somewhere, sometime—to perform one of their oft-raucous shows outside one or both of the national political conventions. If that happens, you can expect fireworks—the last time they played such an event, police had to shoot rubber bullets into the crowd—just don’t expect many Republicans.

How to Get a Dinner Reservation

Here’s the bad news: Getting into any fine-dining restaurant in the Twin Cities is going to be a challenge during the week of—and the weekend before—the convention. First, if you don’t already have a reservation (booked in April, we presume), plan to be polite and accommodating—perhaps a little desperate, even. Second, be flexible. Stephen Gallivan, the concierge at the St. Paul Hotel, says it will be much easier to get a table at the top bistros in town if your party can eat at 8:30 instead of 6 p.m. And your adaptability should also apply to location. His suggestion: Eat outside the metro. “Not only is accessibility to downtown St. Paul going to be difficult, some hosting groups have secured entire restaurants,” Gallivan says. Places such as Meritage, Pazzaluna, and, of course, the St. Paul Grill have long-since been booked, and there are few openings at eateries such as Salut on Grand Avenue and Heartland on St. Clair Avenue. So if you find yourself on the east side without a place to dine, plan to venture further out into the suburbs. If you can’t bear to leave the Cities, your best bet is to check out the schedule of televised speeches—and make your dinner plans accordingly. What self-respecting GOP delegate or party poohbah, after all, is going to be ordering walleye while John McCain is accepting the party’s nomination?

How to Spot GOP VIPs

Access to GOP VIPs at the convention is granted to the blessed few: security detail, caterers, police escorts, custodians, volunteers, and, oh yeah, the folks who’ve been running the country for the last eight years. Good Minnesotans who want to get a peek at Messrs. Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, Thompson (be it Fred or Tommy), and their ilk will need to be a little stealthier. The St. Paul Hotel’s Gallivan offers a few tips. He plans on pointing visitors in the direction of various St. Paul attractions: the Artists’ Quarter, the Minnesota History Center, the Ordway, and Summit Avenue. (One place you won’t be able to go: the Science Museum: It’s being rented by the RNC from August 29 to September 5 and is closed to the public.) Iconic eateries like the St. Paul Grill, the Lexington, and Manny’s are a good bet (if you can get in), as are any of the Cities’ rooftop bars, especially places like Seven at r. Norman’s, the Chambers Hotel, and Solera in Minneapolis. One easy option: Take a seat in St. Paul’s Rice Park and look for the burly guys with ear pieces.

How to Volunteer

If you want to lend a hand as a convention volunteer, you’re going to have to hurry. By the time this magazine lands in your mailbox, there will only be a few days left to sign up. The good news—for you, at least—is that, at press time, volunteer recruitment had been slower than the Minneapolis–St. Paul Host Committee anticipated. In other words, they probably have room for you. Prospective volunteers can apply online at All applicants must be 18 years old and willing to undergo a security background check. ¶ Another option is to help out at CivicFest, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which will feature 35 Minnesota- and politics-related exhibits—many of which have been shown at the Smithsonian—including a model White House, a replica of the Oval Office, and a collection of gowns worn by First Ladies. The eight-day festival, from August 29 to September 4, needs hundreds of volunteers to act as guides, assistant curators, and docents. To sign up, go to

How to State Your Opposition— Legally

If you’re looking to crash the party, you’re not alone: Protesters will be out in force during the Republican convention. (In 2004, more than 75 organizations held events in New York.) Here, a sampling of groups—from across the rowdiness spectrum—planning on giving the Republicans a piece of their minds during their visit to the Twin Cities:

• Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. The group is planning several events, the biggest of which will be the “March for Our Lives” on September 2, a peaceful demonstration seeking to raise awareness about poverty and health care issues.

• CODEPINK Women for Peace.
In 2004, members of this group protested a Halliburton-sponsored breakfast by wearing pig snouts and rolling around in money, and were kicked out of the hall during President Bush’s acceptance speech. This year, they have activities scheduled for each day of the convention.

• Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. Organizers—and police—expect tens of thousands of people to join this September 1 march to protest the war in Iraq.

How to Score the Best Invites

If history is any guide, Republicans are going to put the party in Grand Old Party during their time in the Twin Cities. Along with countless official gatherings—welcoming receptions, delegate breakfasts, media parties—there will be myriad unofficial ones, many hosted by corporations, law firms, or various other “special interests.” So how do you score an invite? It ain’t gonna be easy. The official fetes are for those participating in the convention: delegates, alternates, party bigwigs, elected officials. So unless you’re planning to be elected to Congress between now and the convention, you’re probably out of luck. ¶ Getting into the unofficial parties is going to be only slightly less difficult—and, in some cases, more so. That said, it will cost $57 million to put on the RNC, and most of that money has come from the local business community. Best Buy, 3M, UnitedHealth, Cargill, and others have donated money to bring the big event here. Such largesse translates into access, which means your best chance to get into the best shindigs may depend on your willingness to hit up friends, relatives, or anybody else you know who works or—to be on the safe side—runs those companies. Now, where’d we put Dick Schulze’s phone number?

How to Tell If You’re a Republican. A Quiz!

1. Arne Carlson replaced Jon Grunseth as Minnesota’s Republican gubernatorial candidate two weeks before the 1990 election because Grunseth was accused of what?
a. Suggesting that the gopher is an embarrassing state symbol.
b. Referring to Democratic rival Governor Rudy Perpich, a former dentist, as “that tooth fairy.”
c. Accepting a campaign donation from the Green Bay Packers organization.
d. Swimming nude with four teenage girls.

2. Of the 14 Republican governors that Minnesotans have elected since 1900, what percentage have been of Swedish or Norwegian heritage?
a. 45
b. 68
c. 86

3. The 1892 Republican National Convention—the last time the GOP gathered in the Twin Cities—was the first RNC convention at which women delegates were allowed and a woman addressed the assembly. What did she say?
a. “We are here to help you, and we have come to stay.”
b. “We are not dreamers or fanatics, rather the country’s silent conscience.”
c. “It’s about damn time.”

4. Recently retired Congressman Jim Ramstad was a noted mentor to fellow politicians recovering from substance abuse. After whose car crash did Ramstad call to say, “I’m here for you.”
a. Congressman Patrick Kennedy
b. Senator Ted Kennedy
c. Governor George W. Bush

5. Former Minnesota governor Harold Stassen is best known for running for the Republican Party’s nomination for president nine times between 1948 and 1992. Prior to becoming a perennial presidential candidate, what was he best known for?
a. Wearing a toupee.
b. Having an extramarital affair with a stripper while in office.
c. Getting elected at age 31, which made him the state’s youngest governor.

6. C. Elmer Anderson inspired Minnesota politicians to begin superstitiously using their first initials as he did—including P. Kenneth Peterson and H. Carl Anderson—after his surprising ascent to lieutenant governor in 1938. Which of the following wasn’t among the reasons his success was so surprising?
a. He was just 26.
b. He was an unknown Brainerd magazine distributor recruited within 24 hours of the filing deadline.
c. He was actually recruited in the hope that he’d lose.
d. He switched parties halfway through the campaign.

7. Match the Republican with the quote.
Michelle Bachmann
Norm Coleman
Tim Pawlenty
Carol Molnau
David Durenberger
a. “There is some question about whether those around him have served him well.”
b. “If we’re going to have a state zoo, let’s at least not have a sucky one.”
c. “They talk about freedom and values, but they really don’t believe in representative government.”
d. “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially, virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
e. “We were coming back from our first real vacation in 10 years of marriage a couple of years ago when I met an area woman in an airport who asked me whether I had ever thought about arm-wrestling.”

8. Two Republican Elmers—C. Elmer Anderson and Elmer L. Andersen—have served as Minnesota governor. Which Elmer said what?
a. “When I hear the wild, free call of a loon I’ll know I’m in paradise.”
b. “I remind people I want to be known as a liberal Republican. If that’s a dirty word, so be it.”
c. “I am concerned about [the party’s] lack of apathy.”

9. Rudy Boschwitz lost his U.S. Senate seat to Paul Wellstone in 1990 in part because of a campaign letter suggesting Boschwitz was a better what?
a. A better father
b. A better friend to the poor
c. A better Jew
d. A better wrestler

10. Al Quie, widely admired as governor of Minnesota from 1979 to 1983, famously called former Nixon aide Chuck Colson while he was imprisoned for his Watergate-related crimes to ask what?
a. Whether Colson had asked for God’s forgiveness.
b. If he could serve out Colson’s remaining sentence.
c. For an apology.
d. If he would collaborate on a book about ethics in government.

11. In the so-called Minnesota Massacre of 1978, Republicans demolished DFL dominance with numerous electoral victories. What was the Republicans’ bombastic slogan during the campaigns?
a. “The DFL wants your money and your vote. Tell them they can’t have both.”
b. “On Nov. 4, the DFL is D.O.A.”
c. “Something scary is going to happen to the DFL. It’s called an election.”
d. “Nobody needs another mother.”

12. For most of its political existence, Minnesota has been a predominantly Republican state.
a. True
b. False


1-4 correct: The co-op called, they found your ACLU card by the Fig Newmans.
5-8 correct: Feeling…purplish?
9-12 correct: Thanks for playing, Mr. Rove.

ANSWERS: (1) d (2) c (3) a (4) a (5) c (6) d (7) Bachmann: d, Coleman: a, Pawlenty, b, Molnau, e, Durenberger, c (8) Elmer L: a, b; C. Elmer: c (9) c (10) b (11) c (12) a