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Laura Bush, Cindy McCain Visit Delegations

First lady Laura Bush made a surprise and emotional appearance before Louisiana delegates to the GOP convention this morning, expressing her support and offering her prayers for the state as Hurricane Gustav was making landfall near New Orleans.

“I know all of you have a lump in your throats and fear in your hearts,” Bush said to the delegates.

Even as reports were beginning to come in indicating that Gustav touched down with less intensity than originally expected, the first lady said, “we hope and pray this will not be as severe as has been predicted.”

Although a handful of Louisiana delegates left Minnesota over the weekend to return home, 39 of the state’s original 47 delegates remain in Minneapolis/St. Paul this week. The delegate spots of those who left are being filled by alternates, and state party officials plan to field a full delegation on the convention floor later this week.

Bush, who appeared with Cindy McCain at the Louisiana breakfast, assured the delegates and a large number of members of the media who had gathered that the city of New Orleans, the state government and the federal government are fully coordinating their preparation efforts and that the response will be “much better” than it was just three short years ago when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

At a later appearance before the Texas delegation, Bush told the breakfast gatherings that she planned to visit as many delegations as possible this morning with Cindy McCain as the two sought to rally the GOP base but also strike an appropriate tone as the attention of the country remained on Hurricane Gustav.

Bush told both the Louisiana and Texas delegates that she was excited about voting for a Republican woman, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) ticket.

“I’m proud that I’m going to get my wish to vote for a Republican woman,” Bush said. She and President Bush “were both surprised with her nomination, but thrilled with her nomination.”

The first lady said that her Monday night speech, since canceled, was going to focus at least in part on Cindy McCain. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) had been scheduled to address the delegation Monday morning, but is back home dealing with the effects of Hurricane Gustav.