Gustav May Blow RNC Off Course
By Michael Abramowitz
ST. PAUL -- Republicans grimly monitored the progress of Hurricane Gustav today, with presumptive GOP nominee John McCain himself raising the prospect of some kind of alternative plan for the Republican convention if it appears the storm is landing early next week with the kind of force Hurricane Katrina had when it smashed into the Gulf Coast three years ago.
In an interview to air on "FOX News Sunday," McCain said that holding the convention while Gulf Coast residents suffer would be insensitive.
"I'm afraid ... that we may have to look at that situation and we'll try to monitor it," McCain said. "But you know, it just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near-tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster. So we're monitoring it from day to day and I'm saying a few prayers too."
One possibility is for President Bush to address the convention by video instead of in person, as he is schedule to do Monday night, according to one senior GOP strategist. White House press secretary Dana Perino declined to discuss that possibility Saturday afternoon, saying only, "We're monitoring the storm, tracking it, and don't have a scheduling change to announce at this point."
A McCain adviser said "there's a lot of deliberation as to how we might adapt the convention to a natural disaster. Options have been developed." Another McCain campaign official said that among the ideas circulating would be to turn Monday's session into some form of charitable service for hurricane victims, perhaps even a telethon.
Even before it hits the Gulf Coast, the storm is already having an impact on the convention, which is scheduled to open here Monday night. Three GOP governors from potentially affected states, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, are staying home to cope with the hurricane, mindful of the public relations disaster that befell Bush when his administration was widely seen to have botched the response to Katrina.
Earlier today, Bush called Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Texas Gov. Rick Perry "to make sure the states were receiving all the assistance they needed from the federal government," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. He said President Bush "pledged the full support of the federal government."
In a statement this afternoon, Republican National Convention President Maria Cino said: "Like all Americans, our prayers are with those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav. We continue to closely monitor the movement of the storm and are considering necessary contingencies. We are in communication with the Gulf state governors to make sure the convention is taking all the appropriate steps as the Hurricane progresses. The safety of our affected delegations is our first priority and preparing for Gustav comes before anything else."
Posted at 5:13 PM ET on Aug 30, 2008
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