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"Sandbag Guy" McCain Would Like to Go to Gulf Coast

From CBS News' Allison O'Keefe:

(ST. PAUL, MINN.) - John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, told CBS News that McCain would go to the Gulf Coast region to help prepare for Hurricane Gustav tonight if he could.

"He is a sand bag guy," Davis said. But given the entourage of Secret Service and press that currently travel with the candidate, Davis said that he would just "get in the way."

"It is not like the old days where he can fly down there and pitch in."

The campaign's aim is to turn the convention's attention towards fundraising to help victims of the hurricane. They are in constant communication with the five governors of the Gulf region to identify the most effective charities in order to direct convention resources in that direction.

"We want to turn this in basically to a hurricane relief fundraiser for the next four days," said Davis.

Earlier today, Davis and Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan briefed the press to officially suspend most of their convention activities for Monday.

McCain gave a statement to reporters via satellite. "This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans. We have to join with three million other Americans on behalf of our fellow citizens," said McCain, who was projected on a large TV during the press conference.

In order to formally nominate McCain as the Republican Party's candidate, the convention must convene tomorrow as planned, but Davis said that the activities will be in a significantly abbreviated fashion.

"Tomorrow's program will be business only and will refrain from any political rhetoric that would be traditional in the opening session of a convention" he told reporters following McCain's statement. Davis said that the session will be formal, short and they will adjourn "as soon as is practical."

McCain concluded his statement to the media by asking for prayers. I can hardly wait to get up there and I hope and pray that we'll be able to resume some of our normal operations as quickly as possible but some of that is, frankly, in the hands of God. So keep 'em in your prayers."

Davis was clear in indicating that all eyes are on the storm and that the campaign is doing everything they can to assist the affected delegations.

Today, they provided a private airplane to fly a dozen members of the Louisiana delegation home so they could pick up additional personal belongings and regroup with family members. The charter flight will return those delegates along with their families back to St. Paul in time to avoid the storm's path.

The mood surrounding the Xcel Energy Center changed instantly with the news of McCain's request to suspend most of tomorrow's activities. Florida Republicans have changed the format of a breakfast tomorrow that was to honor the Florida Delegation. The breakfast will now be a multi-denominational prayer breakfast focused on Hurricane Gustav. They also canceled a party and announced the funds will be donated to the American Red Cross to assist those affected by the storm.