updated 8/30/2004 1:04:47 PM ET 2004-08-30T17:04:47

A Kennedy at a Republican convention? It’s almost heresy, but Maria Shriver — niece of Ted, Bobby and John F. Kennedy, and needless to say a Democrat — will be a spectator at the GOP convention this week.

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Shriver will be on the convention floor Tuesday night to watch her husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, give his prime-time speech. Her expected presence is being greeted with some bemusement by delegates, while most said she was welcome.

“This is something that only Schwarzenegger could probably do, have one of the Kennedys attend a Republican convention,” said delegate Josh Valdez of Los Angeles.

Shriver’s hardly courting controversy during her visit to New York. She’s refusing press interviews and leaving the convention quickly after Schwarzenegger’s speech without participating in any public events.

Normally an influential first lady who wields considerable clout in Schwarzenegger’s administration, this week Shriver will be all wife and mother. The couple’s four children, aged 6-14, will be with her.

“She’s the wife of the governor and is going to be there to see him give one of the biggest speeches of his life, and it’s very important for them as a family,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman.

This isn’t Shriver’s first GOP convention. As a journalist for NBC she attended several, said spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh.

“Maria’s a journalist at heart. She’s been to several conventions as a reporter so I’m sure she will enjoy the opportunity to hear what people have to say, regardless of their party,” Carbaugh said.

Some delegates said Shriver’s presence could even benefit the GOP by serving as more evidence of inclusiveness. The party is also showcasing a Democrat — albeit a Democrat viewed as a traitor by other Democrats, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia — as the convention’s keynote speaker.

“The message it sends is this is an election that the party lines don’t matter, what matters is ability to lead and govern,” said delegate Kris Lesher-Aring of the Northern California town of Clayton.

“There’ll probably be some pointing, but I guess the real question is are we somehow threatened by it, and I don’t think we are,” said delegate Mark Leyes of Garden Grove, Calif. “I consider myself a conservative, and she’s more than welcome to come. It’s great political theater.”

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