The first lady and Cindy McCain, wife of John McCain, planned to make cameos at the businesslike opening convention session planned for this afternoon.
Convention planners said for the first time that they expect McCain to accept the nomination in person, in St. Paul. They had considered a remote appearance from the Gulf coast.
The convention is expected to run the full four scheduled days, officials said.
Cindy McCain will address the delegates in what campaign manager Rick Davis calls “a low-key manner” to help organize support for the Gulf states. The first lady will make brief remarks and introduce a video. The primetime session remains canceled.
In keeping with the somber news, the session will feature no music, organizers said.
As part of Republicans’ effort to use the bad break to show leadership and compassion, convention planners announced that on Wednesday morning, they will open a two-day operation at the Minneapolis Convention Center to assemble comfort packages and snack bags for shipment to the Gulf region by a partner in the project, FedEx.
Delegations were not being asked to cancel events, but were urged to make them “appropriate” and to use them to sign up volunteers for the comfort package work on Wednesday and Thursday.
A visit by Vice President Cheney was scratched, as was a primetime appearance by President Bush, who flew to Texas to check storm preparations instead.
The first lady did a series of network morning show interviews, then visited the Texas and Louisiana delegations. In remarks to Bayou State delegates, she called McCain "a true American hero." Speaking after Cindy McCain, the first lady listed the Arizonan's recent work in Africa.
"This is what Cindy McCain has done in the past four or five months, while she campaigned for her husband," Bush said. "You can imagine what she'd do in four years as first lady."
About John McCain's new running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the first lady said: "I'm so happy because I'm actually going to have a chance to vote for a Republican woman this time."
About Palin's service as mayor, the first lady said: "When you're mayor, your constituents are next door. You don't get out of touch, like they always act like the president is, although .... President Bush isn't."