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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appears likely to accept the Republican presidential nomination in St. Paul as planned, Republican officials running the convention said today.

In a conference call with reporters, campaign manager Rick Davis noted that while Gustav is still a brutal storm, the news about the hurricane is better than expected on Monday, and there is no contingency planning for McCain to make his nomination acceptance speech anywhere else.

While Davis emphasized that organizers would make daily assessments of the schedule based on the situation in the Gulf, signs pointed to a convention getting slowly back on track. “We are more optimistic than we were a day ago,” Davis said.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is in town preparing for her vice presidential nomination acceptance speech, which GOP officials are “confident” she will be able to deliver at the convention, Davis said.

First lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain will briefly address the gathering this afternoon in what Davis emphasized will be a “nonpolitical” appearance staged as part of a call to fundraising and public service for the Gulf Coast. Just before 5 p.m. CDT at the close of today’s brief “official business only” session, Laura Bush will introduce a video featuring four of the five Gulf Coast governors, all except Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), “who has his hands full” with the storm, Davis said.

Cindy McCain will then come in and encourage financial donations for victims of the storm. The combined events involving Laura Bush and McCain are expected to take no more than 20 minutes.

Their appearances are being characterized as part of a general Gulf Coast fundraising effort being undertaken at the convention. Delegates, GOP contributors, and corporations supporting the convention are all being urged to contribute money for victims of the storm.

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