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Gustav prompts 'substantial' changes to RNC agenda

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Author Topic: Gustav prompts 'substantial' changes to RNC agenda  (Read 26 times)
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« on: August 31, 2008, 11:47:54 am »

Gustav prompts 'substantial' changes to RNC agenda
Story Highlights
NEW: Bush likely to address convention, if there is one, via satellite, sources say

Sen. John McCain suggests hurricane may affect the Republican convention

GOP source says convention may turn into a massive telethon

Gulf state governors already have canceled trips to convention

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will not attend the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, because of Hurricane Gustav, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Sunday.

The Republican National Convention was set to kick off Monday in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota.

 1 of 2  In addition, "substantial" changes to the Republican National Convention program will be announced Sunday because of the storm, two Republican officials said.

One option is delaying the planned Monday opening of the convention, both sources said, though one of the officials said "that has not been decided. We need a few more hours to look at all of the contingencies. But there will be some substantial adjustments."

Instead of attending, Bush is likely to address the convention's Monday session, if there is one, via satellite, other officials said. First lady Laura Bush is scheduled to attend.

The final decisions will be made after Rick Davis, a top campaign aide to Sen. John McCain, meets Sunday with convention planners in St. Paul.

Shaping those decisions will be briefings that McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has received in the past 24 hours from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison and several Gulf Coast governors.

"It's a dire outlook, and we need to make some changes," one McCain campaign official said. "But this has never happened before to anyone's convention, so we need some time to touch all the bases."

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A senior McCain source said Saturday that officials were considering turning the convention into a massive telethon to raise money for the Red Cross and other agencies to help with hurricane aid.

"He wants to do something service oriented if and when the storm hits and it's as bad as it's expected to be now," the McCain source said.

They are also hoping to get McCain himself to a storm-affected area as soon as possible.

McCain had suggested to a Fox News interviewer that the convention could be suspended if it seemed that a festive gathering was inappropriate in light of the destruction the storm may bring.  Watch as the Gulf Coast prepares for Gustav

Republican Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Charlie Crist of Florida, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Rick Perry of Texas -- whose states lie in the path of the Category 3 Gustav -- will skip the GOP convention because of the storm.

The storm has forced last-minute changes in the convention's announced schedule: If the convention -- originally scheduled to start Monday -- commences by Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's speech will probably move to that night from Wednesday.

Other changes were being contemplated Saturday afternoon.

The hardest decisions, like whether to cancel a day or two of the four-day gathering or to condense days, will be made at the last second, GOP officials said, but the logistics are being discussed.

Also on Saturday, Bush declared a state of emergency in Mississippi, following similar declarations in Louisiana and Texas.

The president ordered federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in the areas in the forecast path of Hurricane Gustav. Bush and his administration were heavily criticized in 2005 for not moving fast enough to send federal help to the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina hit.

CNN's Dana Bash, Ed Hornick, John King and Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report.
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