Gustav May Change GOP Convention Message

Chuck DeFeo, the e-campaign manager for President Bush in 2004, tells Liane Hanson the Republican Party will focus on change during this week's convention, but that a big hurricane will probably shift that message. DeFeo is now vice president of Townhall.com, a conservative online community.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

With Hurricane Gustav barreling toward the Gulf Coast, Republican officials are considering what to do about their party's convention, which is set to open in St. Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow. President Bush is unlikely to attend tomorrow as planned, citing concerns that it may be inappropriate to appear during what could be a massive natural disaster. Convention planners are monitoring the situation closely. Joining us now from St. Paul to talk about what's coming up at the convention is Chuck DeFeo. He's with the conservative online community townhall.com. Welcome to the program.

Mr. CHUCK DEFEO (Vice President, General Manager, Townhall.com): Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: I want to ask you about John McCain's historic choice of Sarah Palin. One of your bloggers put it, this choice begins to close the energy gap. Tell us about that as you're heading into the convention.

Mr. DEFEO: Well, there's two ways of looking at that. One, there's energy, which Sarah Palin, you know, as reports are coming out, has the most energy experience that probably anyone on the ticket, including Senator McCain and Senator Obama. Being a member of the Oil and Gas Commission is a pretty hefty position, and she's had a record of bucking the oil companies and making sure that the people of Alaska are really benefiting from the drilling that they do there.

As far as the energy gap, I think what some conservatives are saying is this is really change we can believe in. Both McCain and Palin have strong records of reform, strong records of really bucking the Republican establishment. I think both independents and liberals alike can really point to and see that these people are not the same old Republicans.

HANSEN: Give us a sense of the narrative next week. What will be the strategy going into the convention?

Mr. DEFEO: Well as you mentioned, it's a difficult time to be in. Gustav really has picked up. Outside of what would be happening in the Gulf Coast, you're going to see a message of reform. There's no doubt that John McCain has been truly a maverick, someone who has fought for change, has fought for change in Washington, has fought for reforms. And with his choice of Palin, he's found someone who's kind of that ideological soul mate who is going to continue to fight for change as they see kind of best for the people.

And you're going to hear that message - you would hear that message from the podium. As we monitor what's going on in the Gulf Coast, you're probably going to see a shift in message about - really, you know, as someone was saying last night, it might almost turn into American Idol Gives Back more of a feel rather than overall messaging about where we want to take the country, and recognizing the hardships that certain people are going through and what we can do to - in this moment of time to do to help them out.

HANSEN: Chuck DeFeo is the vice president and general manager of townhall.com, a conservative online community. Thank you very much.

Mr. DEFEO: Thank you.

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