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Condoleezza Rice energizes Republican National Convention after tame start

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses the

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: AP

Lane Filler has been live blogging from the RNC all night. The evening got off to a slow start, but picked up as Condoleezza Rice delivered her remarks. Follow the rest of his live blogging here.

10:16 p.m. - The former Secretary of State tells the story of growing up black in segregated Alabama, then rising to the cabinet, to a standing ovation. Chants of "Condi, Condi."

She started out a bit nervous, but she's feeding on the approval and getting stronger with each passing line. And she leaves the stage to a raucous round of cheers, whoops, foot stomping and standing applause.

10:11 p.m. - Classic Condi, wonky, unemotional, precise. Then she swoops into the emotional territory of the American dream. Crowd quite glad to get back to that, she was killing them parsing free trade agreements.

She is priming the pump for Ryan, if he comes out hot he may have a very good night. If he comes out cold this audience could check out again.

Condi is a reminder of when Republicans ran things, a time this crowd is very nostalgic for, and she's hitting a deep chord.

Interesting Condi trivia: she never reads fiction, and rarely reads much of anything, for pleasure. Her tiger mom made her read so many books when she was a kid that she has a resentment against them, and avoids them except when they're work related.

10:03 p.m. - Condoleezza Rice is giving a fairly complex speech about our responsibilities on the world stage, but the crowd is working to stay with her, and she's hitting line after line. Getting as much or more  response as last night's most popular speakers.

She's reasserting the line her boss, George W. Bush, pursued, and it's one the Republicans still mostly support. She's talking free and fair trade, but she's making it work.

10:00 p.m. - Condi has the attention. The crowd is quest, still, listening truly for the first time all night.
The real event has begun.

And she's talking about her memories of 9/11, and how that day changed the nation.
Even the delegates have ceased their milling.

Most, but not all, of the smartphones are off.

9:55 p.m. - And the Huckabee energy is sucked out of the room with another musical interlude/twitterfest. Darn.

Then suddenly, Condi Rice come on, as band plays "Sweet Home Alabama," to huge round of extended, foot-stomping applause.

9:54 p.m. - Here comes Mike Huckabee. I have a soft spot in my heart for him. Early in his presidential campaign in 2008, he let me go through his wallet to get a sense of him as a man and write a column about it, and he did so with grace and charm. It turned out to be a very funny piece, and I later asked Fred Thompson to do the same thing. He looked at me like he was going to rip my arm off and eat it.

And what a normal wallet Huckabee's was. Frequent flier cards, $132 bucks, a couple of credit cards, his NRA membership card, the phone numbers of his bandmates in the group "Capitol Offense."

Huckabee is generally pretty beloved with this crowd, and they're waking up to him.

Biggest cheer of the night when Huckabee gives a shout out to Ann Romney for her speech last night, crowd definitely fell in love with her.

Huckabee, addressing Mormon thing, says the only evangelical running is Obama and he endorses gay marriage and abortion. Gets good applause defending Romney's religion, but this crowd is still somewhat distracted. They're waking up, but slowly.

The arena is mostly full now.

Huckabee talking about his relationship with U2 singer Bono. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for those conversations.

Walks off to a very nice round of applause.

9:39 p.m. - Here comes former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. T-Paw. Maybe he can get this party started.

Gets a big roar by making fun of Joe Biden. Easy hunting, but I'll give him credit for the applause.

He's raining down corny jokes, though. "Obama is the first president to create more excuses than jobs."

I had T-Paw in the office guessing game for the VP pick, so I'm a little resentful that he missed out, but Ryan was definitely a more exciting choice.

The seats here have very little leg room, and everyone is going Ian's out of the arena, to the bathroom or to buy food or just stretch their legs. So there is a constant "excuse me" and people shimmying past each other. Last night it stopped when the big guns came on at 10, and it seems likely it will tonight, as well.

Directly to my left is a skybox, with an open bar, many just like at a hockey game, many of the guests are more interested in the party than the game.

They're loud, jovial, youngish, prosperous looking.

9:29 p.m. -  And now Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, who I heard speaking to the New York delegation at breakfast this morning. He's good. Young, handsome, charismatic, with a success story to brag on. He's cut taxes and balanced the budget.

But he's still not garnering too much of the crowd's attention. Some, but not too much.

I find my eyes wandering, just now to the thousands of balloons held against the ceiling in nets for Thursday's celebration after Romney speaks.

The biggest mass of them is concentrated right over the stage to fall on him. Then there are collections of balloons, descending in size out from the stage toward the center of the arena.

Beneath them are huge metal structures to hold all the spotlights used to illuminate the stage. I count at least 150, shooting beams of varying color and intensity.

This is what I notice during the musical interludes.

9:29 p.m. - Steve Cohen, small business owner from Ohio. Construction and mining equipment.

More tariff policy.

You can barely hear him over the sound of audience members chatting among themselves.

9:12 p.m. - Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is trying to bring the crowd back. People sitting around me are shocked at the programming gap they experienced for the past 30 minutes.

He's not having too much luck.

With 45 minutes to primetime coverage on the networks, things should pick up soon. And now Portman is talking tariff and trade policy, but he gets a big hand referencing the federal debt held by China.

"How about no more years," Portman asks, and crowd take up the chant. They want to get excited. But he's wonky, and every bit of momentum he gets, he loses.

8:55 p.m. - Now they're showing an interview from the convention floor with, and this is going to be a shock, an immigrant business owner from Wisconsin.

And now an oil pipeline construction company executive is on stage talking energy infrastructure and pipelines. Applause lines about the Keystone Pipeline utterly ignored.

The crowd appears to be engaged in a mass Angry Birds tournament.

Back to the floor for an interview with a small-business owner, who says Things are tough which they are. It's true.

And back to the stage for a musician named Danny Gokey, who according to Google, will soon have his website up and running, which is awesome.

And back to the instrumental musical interlude/twitter feed on the jumbotron.

8:40 p.m. - South Dakota Sen. John Thune, to big applause, which may be just relief at the end of the civics lecture.

Guess what, his forebears were immigrants, from Norway. We get it, y'all. You're not American Indians, thus you're forebears are immigrants. Duly noted and stipulated. Gracious.

Mid-speech, Thune is getting the kind of applause normally reserved for waitresses who drop trays of food. Sporadic and kind of embarrassed.

The buzz from floor delegates socializing is quite loud. They only stop politicking and glad handing at the most dramatic moments or for the biggest speakers. Otherwise it's like they're at a cocktail party. Which they are, actually. There is no shortage of booze here.

8:29 p.m. - Ultra weird musical interlude as an unintelligible twitter feed flashes by on the screen. The crowd is bored and incredulous. Except for the 12 people likely selected to be in front of each camera, to make things look lively at home and on the jumbotron.

8:15 p.m. - McCain is saying that Obama missed a chance to back a full Iranian revolution.

Wow. I personally kind of agree, it's cynical to pick and choose tyrannies to actively oppose based on the size of their military and the depth of their oil reserves, but McCain can be cavalier in suggesting how involved we ought to be. That's not too dangerous in a senator, but it might have been pretty hairy in a president.

And I think the crowd agrees, at least a bit. The applause is getting lighter the more aggressive he suggests we be in freeing the world.

Hard to imagine the cautious Romney leading the aggressive world freedom movement McCain wants, and he exits to tepid clapping.

8:10 p.m. - Here comes John McCain, to a nice but not tumultuous reception. He looks good.

This is not a great speaking spot for a party luminary. Half the seats are still empty, as people file into the arena, shop for Republitrinkets, or check out the concessions.

And he's not, past his intro, holding the crowd's attention too well.

This is the first set of conventions in which so many people go everywhere with their own portable entertainment centers, in the form of smartphones, and it seems to be affecting the attention spans of the audience.

Only the most charged speeches actually get the iPhones ignored. Ann Romney and Gov. christie achieved it, mostly, but everywhere you look people are texting or facebooking as most of the speakers go.
McCain is concentrating mostly on defense and our role as a freedom leader in the world. He has been frustrated with our lack of response in Syria, and vocal about it.

That's nothing new, he has always supported a strong American hand against tyranny, almost without regard to cost, and as he gets excited about exporting liberty, the crowd is starting to get excited with him.
Gets his best response for accusing government of leaking top secret info operations to media.
Vehement against defense cuts, and the crowd agrees.

The lower bowl and floor of the arena are largely full now, but the second level and third are still about half empty.

7:51 p.m. - A lot of the affection toward the video seems to be toward Barbara and Laura Bush, who are heavily featured. Really one of the most rapt moments so far.

7:49 p.m. - Crowd really seems tuned in to a video about the George Bushes, neither of whom have been seen, or even mentioned here.

Delegate floor milling has stopped, everyone all eyes and ears.

7:46 p.m. - Rand Paul is back to hitting the theme of the convention, "We Built It." To me, it's kind of an iffy slogan. I get that Obama gaffed with "You didn't  build that," but who exactly is the "We" in this new slogan. Is it Republicans? All Americans? Small business owners?

And what of people who don't yet have "it?" Are they somehow to blame for their lack of construction. I guess some are, but ....I don't know, it just seems like a weak, divisive clarion call.

Crowd likes him best when he hits liberty, but he also gets applause when he says not every dollar spent on defense is well spent.

Gets a good response by citing Reagan.

He walks off to a standing ovation from about half the crowd.

7:37 p.m. - Libertarians are sort of like beloved but slightly dotty uncles in the Republican Party, particularly old' Ron. Everyone here agrees with at least half of what libertarians preach with a fiery conviction, but many disagree with other parts of it, like isolationist foreign policy and drug legalization, just as deeply.

Rand Paul may be a bit more a mainstream Republican than his dad, or he may just be more of a politician. It's early in his political career, and it's hard to say exactly.

Paul is ushered out with strains of Canadian band Rush, the world's most libertarian musical group, to hearty applause. The arena is almost half full, but loud for Rand.

Anti-Supreme Court slam on Obamacare gets folks going. Says the debate isn't over, and gets another wonky round of claps for discourse enumerated powers.

But he's losing the crowd with that staple of this year's convention, the story about an immigrant family that built a successful small business.

Cue the story about the grandfather arriving in America. This meme started to lose steam after 10 iterations last night.

Then back to huge applause as he mentions his dad.

Rand is much smoother than his dad, but I don't know if that's entirely a plus. Part of Ron's charm has always been his professorial lack of glam.

But Paul 2.0 would, by definition, have had those bugs in the operating system ironed out.

7:30 p.m. - The Ron Paul video is followed, after an introduction and speech by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, by Ron Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul. As the father 78-year-old father retires from Congress, many of his followers are hoping that Rand can be Paul 2.0, the libertarian-leaning politician who can sell the philosophy to the masses.

The reaction to McConnell is less than tepid. Delegates on the floor are milling and talking, attendees in the seats are mostly checking out their phones and chatting, though there is some sparse applause when he hits an obvious line meant to encourage it.

7:12 p.m. - The evening kicks off with a video on Ron Paul, who was not allowed a podium spot, and whose followers got into a brutal floor fight with the rules committee to get his delegates recognized. The video is being greeted with significant applause and whoops, considering how sparse the crowd is at this early hour.

Honestly, the video is getting as much applause as any speaker has thus far.

7:00 p.m. - Wednesday night's serving of the Republican National Convention is set to kick off at 7 p.m., with the highlights for the evening being the appearances of 2008 nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain and the speech of VP nominee Paul Ryan.

Ryan, at least pre-speech, seems set to become a darling of this convention, along with Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

As for McCain, the curmudgeonly "maverick" has always had a love/hate relationship with the Republican base. They revere his military service and character, but have disliked his stances on immigration and water boarding. It will be fascinating to see how he is received tonight.

As the crowd files in just before 7, the mood seems a bit more excited than last night. The dresses are a little redder and the buzz is a little louder.

Tuesday night, although there were moments when the crowd erupted, there was a generally subdued atmosphere. Attendees are a lot more unified in their dislike of President Barack Obama than their love of Romney, and thus far at least, that's shown in the less than jubilant mood.