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McCain Revamps Convention Plans

Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) on Sunday ordered his party to junk the program for the first day of the four-day convention that will culminate with his nomination for president, saying the potential for disaster along the Gulf Coast necessitates “taking off our political hats and putting on our American hats.”

McCain, speaking to reporters at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., via satellite from St. Louis, said he hoped the Republican National Convention, set to begin Monday, could continue as scheduled Tuesday. McCain said the schedule for the final three days of the convention would depend on Hurricane Gustav and its effect on New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

“This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics,” McCain said. “We will act; we will act together. We will provide the necessary relief, the necessary comfort. We will open our arms, as Americans always have.”

After McCain’s remarks, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said convention delegates would convene at the Xcel Center on Monday around 3 p.m. CDT, with adjournment scheduled for about 5:30 p.m.

Duncan said delegates would meet only to conduct the business required by the party’s bylaws so that McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, can be officially nominated for president and vice president.

All other official convention events scheduled for Monday have been canceled, although McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said it was his hope that the speakers who were set to take the stage that first night can be rescheduled for later in the week. McCain said he hopes to be in St. Paul later this week to address convention delegates.

Davis, who spoke to reporters assembled at the Xcel Center after McCain’s remarks, declined under repeated questioning to comment on what the convention schedule might look like on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday — saying McCain and convention officials were taking things one day at a time.

Davis also declined to discuss the political ramifications of the Republicans losing at least one evening of prime-time television coverage for their presidential ticket and their message just a few days after the Democrats completed their four-day convention and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) accepted the Democratic presidential nomination before 84,000 people at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver and a nationwide television audience of nearly 40 million.

“There’s no pattern to how we will react to this,” Davis said. “We really don’t have the luxury of evaluating the politics of this situation.”

Davis said the campaign’s reaction possibly will include delaying television ads that were scheduled to run in the normal course of the campaign, or possibly even taking down ads that are already on the air.

According to RNC bylaws, neither McCain nor Palin have to address delegates in person as they are scheduled to do on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. But the convention cannot be canceled, as RNC bylaws require the convention be called to order no later than 7 p.m. CDT on Sept. 1 — Monday.

Meanwhile, the McCain-Palin campaign is chartering a DC-9 airplane for delegates from Gulf Coast states who need to immediately return home to secure their property or take care of family members. For those delegates who desire, the campaign plans to charter a flight for them back to the Twin Cities — with their displaced family members in tow if necessary.

On the party front, the McCain-Palin campaign is contacting the hosts of the various after-hours events scheduled for this week. The campaign is not asking that these parties be canceled, but is requesting that they be conducted in a manner respectful of the potential disaster that might be caused in the next 48 hours when Hurricane Gustav makes landfall.

Davis said he is encouraging the hosts of these parties to transform themselves at least a little bit into fundraising vehicles for potential storm victims. Davis said there has been no contact with the Obama-Biden campaign about any joint effort between the two campaigns to raise money for those who might be affected by the hurricane or to shed light on their plight.

However, Davis said, “I wouldn’t rule anything like that out.”

Regarding the parties being held in conjunction with this week’s convention, Davis added that “we will be communicating to all those corporations and individuals who will be holding various events and activities around the convention to please be respectful of the situation that exists in the Gulf, and to employ them as a part of the extended fundraising network that we hope to establish in order to raise money for Gulf charities.”