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Hurricane Isaac has relented to allow the first real night of the Republican National Convention to begin. The theme for tonight is "We Built It" -- a play on President Obama's comment in July, "If you've got a business -- you didn’t build that." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will give the keynote speech, attacking Obama for his economic record. Ann Romney will give a speech to build Mitt Romney up. Other speakers will include House Speaker John Boehner, RNC chair Reince Priebus, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (as in both a former congressman and a former Democrat), and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. We'll be liveblogging the events.


11:23p.m: With the first night done, here's what we learned: The emerging analysis: Ann Romney did a really good job -- better than Chris Christie. She defended her husband's business success and spoke from "my heart." Christie talked about himself too much. They both remember their crappy first apartments as harrowing experiences. Rick Santorum tested everyone's patience with his overuse of a hands metaphor. Bob McDonnell's smile is so perfect he looks like a parody of a southern politician. Mitt Romney still gets uncomfortable when he's the center of attention. Attendees swayed to "God Bless the U.S.A" sung by a reality show contestant. The GOP version of actress Janine Turner unexpectedly looks more Hollywood than the TV version of Janine Turner.

11:19p.m.: A convention attendee allegedly threw peanuts at a CNN camerawoman who's black, saying, "This is how we feed animals," Talking Points Memo reports. The attendee was removed from the convention. CNN confirmed to TPM that there was an incident, but wouldn't offer details.

Update to the update: Convention spokesman Kyle Downey tells Politico's Dylan Byers, "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

11:06p.m.: Even when Christie gets into the inspiring part of his speech at the end -- about how we need "a second American century" -- he has angry eyebrows.

Christie made a case for ignoring the haters:

I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved.  Now our founding fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity were fleeing, and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and the emotions of the times.

But our leaders of today have decided it's more important to be popular, to say and do what's easy, and say yes rather than to say no, when no is what is required.

The GOP continues to reach out to women. Or, tween fans of Mean Girls.

11:00p.m.: "Number of times 'I' appears in Christie's prepared text: 37. Number of times 'Romney' appears: 7," Politico's Ginger Gibson tweets.

After Christie finishes telling his story, horrible music begins to play. "Full credit to Chris Christie. Forcing 3 Doors Down on an unsuspecting audience is definitely telling people what they don't want to hear," The Washington Post's Brad Plumer tweets.

10:55p.m.: "If we can do this in a blue state like New Jersey with a conservative governor, Washington is out of excuses," Christie says. "Leadership delivers, leadership counts, leadership matters." Then he does a shout out to Romney, and the crowd roars. Romney doesn't look that happy about being applauded.

Then his wife says something to him, and he cracks a smile:

But the smile doesn't stick:

10:45p.m.: "We are the United States  of America!" Christie says, to huge applause. The $2.5 million stage with its 13 screens reflects this point rather simply, with a photo of the Statue of Liberty.

10:42p.m.: Ann Romney talked about living in a basement apartment while Mitt Romney was in grad school, but as David Shuster notes, they were living off stock options. Christie just mentioned moving into a "studio apartment" with his wife when they were first married. I hope one day I can look back on my young person's middle class real estate experience as stark poverty. 

10:40p.m.: Republicans are being so nice to the ladies tonight. Ann Romney's speech was all about moms, Chris Christie is talking at length about how his dad was the "gregarious" one, and his mom was "the enforcer." Christie's mom was the driver in the automobile of life, he says. "She spoke the truth honestly, directly, and without much varnish. I am her son."

10:33p.m.: "This man will not fail," Ann Romney promises. When she closes her speech, Mitt meets her on stage. They kiss, but it is not Al and Tipper Gore territory.

10:28p.m.: Ann Romney defends her husband from the attacks on his Bain career. "It amazes me to see his history of success being attacked," she says. "As a mom of five boys do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success? ... If the last four years had been more successful do we really think there would be these attacks on Mitt Romney's success?"

She says yes, her husband had some advantages -- "two parents with strong values," a "chance to get the education his father never had" -- but "I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it!"

10:22p.m.: Ann Romney notes that her grandfather was a coal miner. Rick Santorum said his grandfather was a coal miner too. Given that we all have eight great-grandparents, and given the history of the American energy industry, who isn't related to a coal miner?

10:21p.m.: Romney talks about how life is harder than it needs to be in this economy, with gas a little more expensive. "All those things that used to be free," she says, like school sports, which are now another bill to pay. I would note that funding for school sports came from somewhere.

10:15p.m.: Ann Romney takes the stage. "Tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts," she says. "I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family. I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours. Tonight I want to talk to you about love."

10:01p.m.: Haley's frustrations are not being heard by all. Every broadcast network led with news about Hurricane Isaac. Here's NBC:

10:00p.m.: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says everyone's trying so hard, but Obama is dragging us down. "The hardest part of my job continues to be dealing with this, this administration, and this president," she says. "Unfortunately,  you can work hard, try to be as successful as possible, and play by the rules.And president Obama will do anything he can to stand in your way." She explains that Obama sued the state over it's "innovative" immigration law.

9:51p.m.: Davis says, "The Democrats' ads do convince me that Gov. Romney can't sing. But his record convinces me he can lead." Which underscores that the speakers tonight haven't talked all that much about Romney. Rick Santorum, for example, spoke little of his former primary foe.

Davis's theme is one of disappointment in Obama. He says he should have known in Denver that "things that begin with styrofoam Greek columns and artificial smoke don't end well." And: "No candidate had ever spoken so beautifully. But dreams meet daybreak."

9:48p.m.: And now for the convert: Artur Davis, former Democrat and former congressman. The newly converted are usually the most ardent.

9:47p.m.: Cruz says "thank God" when his dad escaped Cuba, "a bureaucrat" didn't hand him a check, teach him to be dependent, and tell him not to learn English. Republicans are struggling to reach out to Latinos, and this is a way of showing that their policies aren't anti-immigrant in the long run.

9:38p.m.: Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz is not speaking at a podium, but walking around like a preacher.

9:33p.m.: Santorum gets emotional when talking about his disabled daughter, Bella.

He gets a standing ovation for saying he thanks God America has at least one party that protects the unborn.

9:29p.m.: Some key lines from Santorum. On welfare: "I helped write the welfare reform bill. We made the law crystal clear: no president can waive the work requirement. But as with his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, President Obama rules like he is above the law."

On tyranny on American soil: "America take heed: When a president can merely give a speech and say he can do what the law says he cannot do, we will no longer be a republic."

On the hands of America: "I shook the hand of the American dream, and it has a strong grip." He went on to say "hands" 20 more times.

9:23p.m.: Santorum says of his immigrant grandfather: "In 1923 there were no benefits for immigrants except one: freedom." We would politely note that the U.S. had passed a number of labor laws before that date.

Obama is creating a "culture of dependency" he says.

9:20p.m.: Rick Santorum takes the stage. He plans to talk about welfare reform in the 90s.

9:18p.m.: Time for RNC speaker superlatives. Among the governors, we award Best Smile to Bob McDonnell, Best Wholesome Heartland Accent to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Best Coif to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (below). Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was Most Enthusiastic.

9:16p.m.: Yahoo's Holly Bailey spots the RNC prayer room:

9:09p.m.: "on the 1st night of the convention, you have a procession of GOP governors proclaiming their states economies healthy. obama will take that," The New Republic's Noam Scheiber tweets. That includes governors of swing states -- Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Kasich bragged Ohio is the fourth best job creator in the U.S. and the No. 1 job creator in the Midwest.

9:01p.m.: The convention has played audio of Obama's "you didn't build that" line, sometimes edited, three times now.

8:50p.m.: The ingredients for Will Ferrell's character in The Campaign must have been part John Edwards and part Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: 

McDonnell tonight:


Can a smile be too winning? No, of course not.

8:34p.m.: You'd expect Republicans to say Obama and Biden don't tell the truth tonight. But you wouldn't expect Kasich to use Biden's golf game as the prime example. Biden says he's good at golf, Kasich said, but I've played golf with Joe Biden and let me tell you, that's not true, as well as all the other things that he says."

The Washington Examiner's Charlie Spiering notes that when Obama and Boehner had their "golf summit" over the debt ceiling in June 2011, the pair teamed up to play a team of Kasich and Biden. Obama and Boehner won. So perhaps Kasich hasn't gotten over the sting of defeat? 

8:24p.m.: Amazing. Ohio Gov. John Kasich comes out to a Black Eyed Peas song, and then quotes Black Eyed Peas lyrics. "I've got a feeling, and it's not just because I like the Black Eyed Peas, that we're going to elect a new president." His fans are here and organized:

I think the "H" got lost off camera?

8:21p.m.: Jack Gilchrist, star of one of Mitt Romney's first "didn't build that" ads, speaks with a charming New Hampshire accent. (I think it's a New Hampshire accent. He just sounds like a northerner to me. "We need a leada... Mitt Romney is exactly that leeda.")

8:18p.m.: Rothenberg Political Report's Jessica Taylor tweets that she spotted former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford! Sanford just got engaged to the Argentinian for whom he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail" and essentially gave up a promising political career. Taylor says Sanford "ran away" before she could ask about the wedding.

8:11p.m.: The Oak Ridge Boys cut striking figures as they sing "Amazing Grace."

8:02p.m.: Valenzuela tears up as she talks about her son's autism and first year at college.

8:00p.m.: Speaking now is Sher Valenzuela, who talks about starting a small business to make money after her son's autism diagnosis. But as BuzzFeed reports, in April she gave a PowerPoint-presentation on getting government contracts to build your business.

Valenzuela was initially scheduled to speak at 9p.m. I don't know why she was sent out early.

7:51p.m.: Janine Turner's Republican look is very different from her Northern Exposure look. Then:


Turner shows that being good at reading lines in a TV show doesn't necessarily translate to good speechifying.

7:46p.m.: Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah and a candidate for Congress, has a warm smile and is a much better speaker than Reince Priebus. Love says Obama divides the country by social class, and references Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. before saying, "This is the America we know, because we built it!" Expect to see more of her.

7:36p.m.: Neal Boyd, from America's Got Talent, just sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A.," a classic GOP hit from the 1992 campaign. He was wearing a beret. The crowd loved it.

Here's Boyd, singing passionately:

7:24p.m.: RNC chair Reince Priebus is not the most compelling speaker. Or, he's better on the Sunday talk shows than in a convention all. Still, his attack applause lines kill: "America needs a turnaround. Specifically, we need Barack Obama to turn around and go back to Chicago!"

7:17p.m.: House Speaker John Boehner starts with a bar metaphor, saying if a guy came into a business saying even though things are bad, at least they're getting better, "We'd throw him out!"

7:04p.m.: Obama was talking about infrastructure, not businesses, when he said "you didn't build that," but that will not ruin Republicans' fun. Neither will the fact that Sher Valenzuela, a small business owner and candidate for lieutenant governor of Delaware who will be speaking tonight, got $17 million in federal loans for her company.

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