Because of the threat posed by Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf Coast, “We’re going to take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats,” Sen. John McCain announced Sunday afternoon as officials outlined plans for an abbreviated Day One of the Republican National Convention.
In a video message to reporters in St. Paul, McCain said that the country is “facing a great national challenge and the possibility of a great national natural disaster,” so he has asked his party to “do away with party politics” and suspend most of the planned activities for the first day of the convention.
That means that President Bush, first lady Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney will not be coming to speak in St. Paul as originally scheduled, and only certain required aspects of convention business will task place Monday.
According to Mike Duncan, the RNC chairman, those items include a call to order, receiving the report of the credentials committee, adopting the rules, electing officers and adopting the party platform.
“We will refrain from the political rhetoric that usually marks the first day of a convention,” said Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager.
They expect the Monday session to run from 3 p.m. to about 5:30 p.m.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
There will be a briefing at noon Monday to let people know “what, if anything, will take place on Tuesday,” Davis said.
“At some point between Monday and Thursday evening, we will convene once again to complete the activities needed to qualify Senator McCain and Governor Palin for the ballot in all 50 states. Beyond that, all we can say is that we will monitor what is happening and make decisions about other convention business as details become available,” Davis said.
Although McCain’s presence may not be needed to make the nominations official, a quorum of delegates is, Davis said. A quorum will be half of the 2,380 delegates plus one, or 1,191 delegates.
Davis said he’s hopeful that McCain will be able to attend the convention at some point to accept the nomination, but even that remained unclear Sunday.
“I know he’d like to be here; it’s the culmination of a long and distinguished political career,” Davis said. “I know the delegates would love to have him here.”
As for a possible appearance by President Bush later in the convention, Davis said the president’s full attention is now on the situation in the Gulf and he will not appear in St. Paul Monday. “Anything beyond tomorrow is speculation,” he said.
About a dozen Louisiana delegates, who’d already come to the Twin Cities for the convention, will be flown home, via a charter plane, to be with their families, officials said. Other delegates from the affected states could follow.
Sponsors of parties being thrown around town for delegates and visitors have been asked to “be respectful” of the situation in the Gulf Coast states, Davis said. He expects many groups here for the convention will raise money to help with disaster relief.
Jeff Larson, CEO of the Host Committee, the local group that raised money and fund volunteers for the convention, said: “We will remain flexible and work closely with the Committee on Arrangements for the Republican National Committee to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the goals of the convention and to take care of our visitors. Minnesotans are known for their generous spirit and willingness to help in a crisis — and we’ve already taken many calls from our partnering companies asking what they can do to help.”
And after the announcement of the curtailed activities, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said: “Our role is to provide security for visitors, delegates and those who have come to St. Paul to peacefully express their First Amendment rights. We anticipate any changes to the program of the convention to have a minimal effect on our operations.”
Also, the Democratic National Committee canceled its plans for tonight’s Twin Cities media welcome party because of the impending storm. It also said it was canceling Monday’s daily media briefing that was to be held at its More of the Same Media Center to counter Republican political statements.
Joe Kimball reports on St. Paul City Hall, Ramsey County politics and other topics. He can be reached at jkimball [at] minnpost [dot] com.