Laura Bush, Cindy McCain make plea for Gustav aid
ST. PAUL - Republicans staged a subdued opening yesterday to their storm-shadowed national convention, seeking aid for the Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Gustav.
Rather than a keynote address or other political oratory, the convention programmers gave Cindy McCain and Laura Bush top billing to make televised appeals for help, and drastically shortened the schedule.
"Our first priority now - today - is to ensure the safety and well-being of those living in the Gulf Coast region," Bush said, adding that "our shared American ideals always transcend party politics."
"I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible. As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats," McCain added.
Less than 15 minutes after the convention began, Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee, asked delegates to use their cellphones to text a five-digit code that would make a donation to the Red Cross for victims of the hurricane.
In Waterville, Ohio, presumptive nominee John McCain helped pack cleaning supplies and other items into plastic buckets that will be sent to the Gulf Coast area.
Linda Green, who runs the center, thanked McCain for directing Republicans to avoid "hoopla" at the convention and respecting the needs of storm victims instead.
"Each one should use whatever gift he or she has received to serve others faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms," the Arizona senator said, reading from Green's business card.
"And as the hurricane strikes Louisiana as we speak, all Americans I know will be motivated by those words of serving others and using whatever gifts we have to help our fellow Americans," McCain told reporters.
The adopted rule declares that no state can hold its primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in March, except for those three states.
They, in turn, cannot hold their votes before the first Tuesday in February, a stark contrast to this year, when Iowa held its caucuses on Jan. 3, New Hampshire its primary on Jan. 8, and South Carolina its contest on Jan. 19.
Iowa and New Hampshire had to hold earlier contests to keep their positions once South Carolina moved to keep its first-in-the-South primary after Florida moved up its contest.
"It pushes back the calendar and it slows it down, and thatâs a big gift for us," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire delegate and member of the Credentials Committee.
The Democratic presidential nominee also scaled back a Labor Day speech to unions in an effort to keep the focus on the Gulf Coast. "Instead of a speech, what I'd like to do is to ask all of us join in some silent prayer for all those Americans who are spending this Labor Day in a shelter waiting for another storm to pass," Obama said at an outdoor rally in the shadow of
He did, however, assure union members of their place of importance in his White House.
"I'm a labor guy. I believe in the labor movement. I believe in American workers," Obama said. "I think it's important to have a president that doesn't choke on the word 'union.' "