Republicans eye advancing hurricane with convention set to start

August 31st, 2008 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 31 (DPA) Republicans could be forced to alter the agenda for their party’s nominating convention Monday with Hurricane Gustav forecast to hit the US Gulf coast the same day.The Republican National Convention is set to kick off Monday in St. Paul, Minnesota - more than 1,900 km to the north of New Orleans - where the hurricane is likely to hit, along with other areas along the northern Gulf coast.

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain told Fox News in an interview that holding the convention while Gulf coast residents suffer would be insensitive.

“It just wouldn’t be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near-tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster,” McCain said.

“So we’re monitoring it from day to day and I’m saying a few prayers too.”

Prominent Republican governors of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida - whose states lie in the projected path of the hurricane - have either cancelled or postponed plans to attend the convention CNN reported.

In the event of a disaster, officials could turn the convention into a service event with a massive telethon to raise money for relief efforts, CNN quoted a McCain campaign official as saying.

“I don’t think (postponement) is a possibility,” Republican National Committee Deputy Chairman Frank Donatelli told reporters. “I do believe there are other methods to deal with that potential situation so that we recognise and show the gravity of the situation and still do our business.”

President George W. Bush is scheduled to address the meeting Monday night and was making contingency plans - such as speaking to delegates via satellite - in case the storm compelled him to stay in Washington.

Bush has already declared an emergency in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, allowing the federal government to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

In 2005, the president was severely criticised for attending political events after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in New Orleans.

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