President Bush is keeping a low profile at his Texas ranch during the Democratic Party's national convention. But, that does not mean the Republicans are remaining silent while the Democrats spend four days criticizing the president and his policies on national television.

It is part of the etiquette of American presidential politics. When one of the two major political parties holds its convention, the contender from the opposition ceases all campaigning and cedes the limelight.

President Bush is on a working vacation while the Democrats meet, and John Kerry is likely to do the same thing when the Republicans gather in New York in late August.

But in this day and age of constant news on television, radio, and the Internet, and with the presidential candidates so close in the polls, neither party can afford to be totally silenced.

And that is why they have created a new political institution: a convention media center run by the opposition.

"It is also known as the war room and also known as the rapid response room," said Scott Hogenson, the Director of Radio and Internet press for the Republican National Committee.

"Our job here in Boston is to try to set the record straight, to fill in the gaps. Where there is missing information, we fill it in. Where there is context that is left out, we provide the context. And where there are things that are deliberately misleading, we set the record straight."

The Republicans are working out of a two level office in a nondescript building a short walk from the convention hall, whose location is known only to reporters who are admitted on an invitation-only basis. Inside about two dozen staff members work at computer terminals, monitor the convention, and deal with questions from the media.

There is also a small television studio where Republican officials can do interviews and respond within seconds to Democratic criticism on the convention floor.

Scott Hogenson says the goal is simple: to show American voters that the portrait of John Kerry presented by the Democrats here in Boston is a distortion.

"And we are continually searching for documents and advance copies of remarks and along with those we are also creating our own documents to do point by point rebuttals of some of the misconceptions and things that are just plain wrong," he said.

The staff in the war room already looks drained and the Democratic Convention runs through Thursday. The Democrats who will staff their party's rapid response team during the Republican convention in New York probably won't fare any better. Mr. Hogenson says the job is unending during the four day convention.

"We know we are swimming upstream here," he said. "There are thousands of Democrats and a couple dozen Republicans. But it is important for us to set the record straight."

The Republicans say they can not afford to let any charges go unanswered. The Democrats, as they plan for New York are no doubt thinking the same thing.