McCain curtails convention as Gustav threatens coastal US (Second Lead)

September 1st, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 1 (IANS) As Hurricane Gustav threatened to hit America’s Louisiana coast, Republican presidential candidate John McCain turned his party’s nominating convention Monday into a business like session shorn of political speeches or usual festivities.”This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans…So, we’re going to suspend most of our activities tomorrow except for those absolutely necessary,” said McCain, speaking from St. Louis, Missouri, Sunday.

The Sep 1-4 Republican national convention at St Paul, Minnesota, would formally nominate McCain and his vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin to face their Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Trying to avoid a repeat of 2005 when the White House faced criticism for not moving fast enough to send federal help to the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to skip Monday’s session that Bush was to address.

Four Republican Governors - 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 too would skip the GOP convention because of the storm.

“This is still a very dangerous storm,” said Jindal, the first Indian American to become the head of a US state, asking people to flee the Louisiana coast. “It’s not too late to evacuate. I strongly encourage you to do so.”

Jindal said an estimated 1.9 million people had fled coastal areas and only 10,000 people were believed to have stayed behind in New Orleans.

McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis said Republicans would meet in an abbreviated fashion, conducting only what was necessary to constitute a convention, such as calling the convention to order, receiving a report from the credentials committee and adopting the party platform.

“Tomorrow’s programme will be business only and will refrain from any political rhetoric that would be traditional in an opening session of a convention,” he said.

The four-day convention will begin at its regularly scheduled time, 3 p.m. central time, and adjourn around 5 or 5.30, he said. The rest of the week’s schedule would be determined on a day-by-day basis.

Earlier Sunday, McCain said it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold a political celebration during the storm.

“We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans,” he said, adding that it was likely the event would change into a “call to the nation for action”.

“I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention … to act as Americans, not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat,” he said.

As a massive evacuation from the New Orleans area continued, McCain and his newly named vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, visited Mississippi to review emergency preparations.

Meanwhile, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll released Sunday night suggested the presidential race was in a statistical dead heat, with Obama leading McCain 49 percent to 48 percent. The poll was taken Friday through Sunday, after both the Democratic convention and Palin’s debut as McCain’s running mate.

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