I just got inside the the Xcel Center for tonight’s events, where Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Rep. John Boehner, and Laura Bush are slated to speak. President George Bush is going to address the crowd via satellite as well.

Some early observations: The tone here is definitely reserved. There are quite a few seats open all over the stadium (I’m the only person sitting in my row right now). In Denver last week, it was impossible to find a seat. We sat behind the stage most nights. The videos so far have shown old photos of the first Pres. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and, going even farther back, lots of images of the founding fathers. Even the music is remarkably more sedate — piano, strings, lots of patriotic-sounding melodies.

The crowd is pretty quiet — the only thing to elicit wild applause so far was a photo of Ronald and Nancy Reagan on the jumbo-tron. Not even Minority Leader Boehner’s speech about how awesome House Republicans are for holding a sit-in protesting the fact that they can’t get a vote on pro-drilling legislation drew much applause. (Boehner didn’t mention that he missed the majority of the protest while golfing and fundraising.)

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“With John McCain, Republicans have fought for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to lower gas prices and end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil,” said Boehner. “And when Nancy Pelosi sent Congress home last month without an energy vote, Republicans refused to leave.”

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The protest is still going, according to Boehner — Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan is “leading a group of our colleagues who are continuing our historic protest.” Even that proclamation barely registered.

When Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) spoke, she kept pausing awkwardly to await applause. Even the laugh lines — “I do admit we have a lot of liberals here in Minnesota, but they’re happy liberals!” — met with near silence.

Another awkward note: The head of the RNC host committee, whose name I didn’t catch, was speaking on stage earlier about how great it is that Republican women are gaining in prominence. She proclaimed how wonderful it is to have Gov. “Sarah Pawlenty” as the VP candidate. Tim Pawlenty is the governor of Minnesota. That doesn’t help much with Palin’s lack of national name recognition.

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