10:05 a.m. “Convention Politics and the Fall Elections” is the second panel this morning at the Humphrey Institute’s series of forums entitled, America’s Future: Conversations about Politics and Policy during the 2008 Republican National Convention. The discussion is moderated by former Minnesota Congressman Tim Penny (President, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation). The panelists are:

* Thomas Mann (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution)
* Ramesh Ponnuru (Senior Editor, National Review)
* Larry Sabato (Direction, Center for Politics, University of Virginia)
* Vin Weber (former Minnesota Congressman, Chairman, National Endowment for Democracy and Partner, Clark and Weinstock)

10:10 a.m. Mann has been struck by the different levels of interest, energy, and fundraising between the two parties, with Democrats holding a huge advantage in this regard. On the Republican side, Mann noted how 1/.3 of the seats were vacant at the Excel Center during last night’s Republican National Convention proceedings, compared to the exceedingly high emotion and turnout in Denver at the Democratic Convention where security had to close the doors when the seats were full.

10:19 a.m. Mann says McCain knows the election is more a long-shot than a toss-up.

10:25 a.m. Sabato reveals he just got a text message from the Press Secretary of a “very, very conservative Governor” asking whether the Republican convention is as dismal in person as it appears on television.

10:28 a.m. Sabato says he ran into Governor Pawlenty on the street. After telling the Governor he thought he was going to get the nod, Pawlenty told him he was “One chromosome away from being picked.”

10:31 a.m. Sabato says the only thing that gives him pause in predicting an Obama victory is the issue of “racial leakage” (whites who say they will vote for Obama, but just can’t bring themselves to do so in the voting booth). He says there will be some of this across America, but he’s not sure how much.

10:35 a.m. Ponnuru believes the only thing that is giving McCain a chance in 2008 is that Democrats won back Congress in 2006. If Republicans had remained in control they could not use the drilling issue, for example, as they campaign to solve the issue of gas prices this year.

10:38 a.m. Weber says the model for a McCain victory is in France where Sarkozy was able to win despite an unpopular outgoing president from his own party.

10:44 a.m. Weber says McCain’s best chance to win is to make this an ideological contest between himself and Obama. (i.e. “It’s not a question of change, but what kind of change.”).

10:52 a.m. Mann says if McCain was elected he would not want to continue the ideological wars that have taken place during the last two years of the Bush presidency. He says McCain would rather ‘stick it’ to his own party and work with the Democrats than to become a loyal partisan.

10:58 a.m. Sabato believes Obama would govern as a moderate or moderate-liberal if elected. Sabato thinks Obama is much more cautious than people realize, and will govern in a way that will be at odds with his #1 National Journal ranking (rankings with which Sabato has great problems).

11:08 a.m. Sabato observes that both McCain and Obama are running traditional campaigns in that they are largely avoiding the press (McCain is no longer running the ‘straight talk express’).