Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.
For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain's formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.
Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious.
Complicating matters, the McCain campaign and its surrogates spent quite a bit of time earlier this summer insisting that coastal oil drilling is perfectly safe, and that Hurricane Katrina didn't produce any oil spills at all. The campaign's claims, of course, were demonstrably ridiculous.
With this in mind, reports like these are unhelpful: "A hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico could also cast unwelcome attention on the offshore oil rigs that McCain has championed as a solution to rising gasoline prices -- they are now being evacuated in the face of the coming storm."
Also note, if a major storm hit the coast, it might not just necessitate moving the convention, it might also prompt Republicans to alter their message a bit. A senior GOP official told the Washington Post, "You would have to dramatically change the nature of what you do. Much less partisan. Much less political."
I find that hard to believe -- this is the Republican convention after all -- but it's something to keep an eye on.