Rich Galen

The quadrennial political conventions of the two major parties take years - literally - from the day the Republican and Democratic National Committees appoint the site selection committees; to the night the nominee gives his (or her) acceptance speech.

Conventions are more-or-less bifurcated affairs. The RNC and DNC have the responsibility for putting the convention on - raising the money, building out the arena, dealing with security and hotels, etc.

The campaigns have the responsibility for the actual program - who speaks on which day in what order on what subject.

These programming decisions are started many months out when the nominees begin thinking about what the "messaging" is to be and what the big themes are to be to make those messages ring true to a large audience.

Conventions tend to be four days with the first day being devoted to the business of the convention (rules, platform, delegate challenges, etc) and the big finish being the acceptance speeches of the nominees on the fourth night.

In between there are hundreds of speakers - from candidates who need a boost to senior Members of the House and Senate to Governors and, of course the big three: Keynote, VP and President.

The schedulers - the program managers - take direction from the campaign for who will speak, but the managers have the responsibility to pencil in where they speak and what their topic will be.

This is all timed out so that the major speeches of each night (First Lady on Monday, Keynote on Tuesday, VP on Wednesday and President on Thursday) fall within the ever-shrinking window of coverage provided by the four major networks.

The Democrats had a standard four-night operation with the necessity of giving both Hillary and Bill Clinton primo speaking slots.

But for the GOP, the challenge took the form of a tropical cyclone roaring through the Gulf of Mexico aiming straight at Bourbon Street in the form of Hurricane Gustav.

Given the total failure of government at the local, state and Federal level a few years back during and after Hurricane Katrina, there was a great deal riding on how the public perceived a bunch of bangle-wearing, banner-waving, cheering, chanting delegates in St. Paul while New Orleans was drowning.

Sen. John McCain decided to cancel the entire program for Monday night and held out the possibility that Tuesday would be cancelled as well.

All those hours, days, and weeks of moving speakers and videos around the rhetorical chess board went right out the windows of the Xcel Energy Center hockey arena and it was left to two guys to put Humpty Dumpty back together.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at