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Hurricane Gustav roils the GOP convention

August 31, 2008 |  2:45 pm

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis announces changes in Monday's convention session.

ST. PAUL — With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, Republicans have canceled all but the bare minimum requirements for Monday's session of their convention, as GOP presidential candidate John McCain called on delegates to turn their attention to people likely to be displaced.

Speaking this afternoon by video from St. Louis to reporters massed here for the Republican National Convention, McCain said it was necessary to “take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.”

It's uncertain whether McCain will appear at the convention — that depends on the severity of the storm — although party rules require the delegates to formally nominate him and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, speaking in St. Paul, said the Monday session would be designed to comply with requirements of calling the convention to order. It is impossible to plan beyond that, he added.

Davis and McCain both urged delegates and others gathering here to donate to relief efforts. The McCain campaign is chartering a DC-9 to fly delegates from the Gulf Coast back home; about a dozen have taken them up on that offer so far. Davis said some would be returning with their family members.

“Pray for the best and prepare for the worst,” McCain said. He had spoken earlier Sunday with the governors of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the states that could be in harm's way.

He said that although some communications systems appeared to be lacking, the response would far exceed what the federal government had done in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago. At that time, McCain was sharply critical of the federal response.

“Of course, we have to do away with party politics and act as Americans,” McCain said this afternoon. “It is a time for action.”

-- Dan Morain

Photo: McCain campaign manager Rick Davis announces the change in plans for Monday's convention session. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images