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Sarah Palin speaks her piece tonight (following a raft of others on the GOP podium)

September 3, 2008 | 10:43 am

Tonight's speaking schedule for the Republican National Convention is crammed with notables, but the spotlight will intensely focus on just one -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the surprise pick by John McCain as his running mate.

Palin, who has been kept under wraps by the McCain campaign for the last few days, will culminate the evening's program with an address that probably will begin around 10:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 p.m. PDT).

Although her appearance will be the night's climatic moment, the convention's delegates won't disperse after she departs the podium. Under the schedule that the conclave's planners have been scrambling to rearrange after Monday's opening session was abbreviated because of Hurricane Gustav, McCain is to be officially nominated after Palin's speech.

Those scheduled to precede Palin on the stage tonight include the almost-nominee's wife, Cindy McCain. Intriguingly, the would-be first lady, in an interview to air later today on the CBS Evening News, parted company with Palin on one aspect of the abortion issue.

Mrs. McCain told Katie Couric that while she is "pro-life," she does not oppose abortion in cases on rape or incest. Our colleague Mark Silva has more on the interview at The Swamp blog.

Others slated to speak during the 10 p.m. PDT prime-time hour are Rudy Giuliani (the keynoter) and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (who no doubt will offer herself as a kindred spirit with Palin).

Set for the 9 p.m. EDT hour: Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (the latter two sought the nomination that McCain claimed).

Set for the 8 p.m. EDT hour: Buisness executives Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, both of whom have become high-profile McCain advisors.

-- Don Frederick

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