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GOP plans full night tonight

ST. PAUL - The Republican National Convention is crowding more speakers into today's agenda to make up for a hurricane-compressed Monday.

President Bush is expected to talk from the White House via satellite to his wife, Laura, who will be in the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

But when people speak, and who speaks, depends on whether Republican officials can talk television networks into expanding coverage they planned to limit from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night through Thursday.

Republican president candidate John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, said since the convention eliminated prime-time activity Monday - at McCain's suggestion - to focus attention on Hurricane Gustav's Gulf Coast landfall, Republicans have lost one night in front of the American people. He said the campaign is talking to network officials to expand coverage the rest of the convention.

"Obviously we lost a lot of opportunities to pass on our message last night," Davis told a conference call with reporters this morning.

President Bush is to speak via satellite, probably from the White House, tonight, Davis and Republican Chairman Mike Duncan said. First lady Laura Bush will be on stage at in St. Paul and will interact with her husband.

As of this morning, the Bushes were to end their appearance just before major networks begin their coverage at 9 p.m. However, GOP officials said, that could change and the schedule for the rest of the week has not been fixed.

After McCain urged convention organizers to tone down the gathering in light of Gustav, they cut Monday's meeting down to the bare essentials, emphasizing hurricane relief over politics.

Minnesota's congressional delegation should be represented in tonight's program, with Sen. Norm Coleman and Rep. Michele Bachmann expected to speak.

Featured prime-time speakers tonight will be Sen. Joe Liebermann, a former Democrat, and former presidential candidate and U.S. senator Fred Thompson. Both will deliver strong pro-McCain speeches, Davis said.

Activity begins at 6 p.m., and Minnesota GOP Chairman Ron Carey said it could stretch beyond the planned 10 p.m. end time.

"This is a fast--changing environment," Carey told Minnesota convention delegates during their regular morning meeting.

Vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin could talk either Wednesday or Thursday, Davis said. That decision should be made later today.

The roll call of state to nominate McCain is expected to begin about 10 p.m. Wednesday, after McCain's wife, Cindy, talks to the convention. The Palin nomination could come Thursday.

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