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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The storm has already affected the Republican Convention in Minnesota, which President Bush will miss. NPR's David Welna is at the convention.

DAVID WELNA: Just a couple of days ago, Republican officials insisted they had no plans to scale back or postpone their convention. But as Gustav's fury closed in on the Gulf Coast, it became obvious things would not be going as planned here in St. Paul.

President Bush was to have been the keynote speaker this evening. But as the president toured FEMA headquarters in Washington yesterday, he made clear that unlike when Katrina hit New Orleans three years ago, this time he would not be attending a political function elsewhere.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: In light of these events, I will not be going to Minnesota for the Republican National Convention. I'm going to travel down to Texas tomorrow to visit with the Emergency Operations Center in Austin, where coordination among federal, state and local government officials is occurring.

WELNA: Vice President Cheney also cancelled his scheduled appearance here tonight, then Senator McCain weighed in by satellite from St. Louis, at a hastily called news conference here at the site of the convention.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): We are facing a great national challenge and the possibility of a great national natural disaster.

WELNA: McCain announced that due to the hurricane, all but the absolutely necessary convention activities are being suspended today.

Sen. McCAIN: 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.

WELNA: What's more, McCain campaign Chairman Rick Davis said the two-and-a-half hour session planned for this afternoon would be free of politics.

Mr. RICK DAVIS (Chairman, McCain Campaign): Owing to the fact that the senator has asked us to take our Republican hats off and put our American hats on, tomorrow's program will be business only and will refrain from any political rhetoric that would be traditional in an opening session of a convention.

WELNA: Davis promised daily briefings through the week on what, if anything, might be happening on the convention floor each day. He also said the McCain campaign wanted the receptions and parties planned around the convention to help those who may suffer from Gustav's impact.

Mr. DAVIS: We will be communicating to all those corporations and individuals who will be holding various events and activities around the convention to please be respectful of the situation that exists in the Gulf and to employ them as a part of the extended fundraising network that we hope to establish in order to raise money for Gulf charities.

WELNA: Convention-related parties did go on here as planned last night, but Arizona delegate Edward Basha said the tone of the gathering here has definitely changed.

Mr. EDWARD BASHA (Delegate, Arizona): But I wouldn't say that it is either a good tone or a bad tone. It's the appropriate tone for what's happening, if that makes sense. I think that the delegates that are here are still going to have a good time.

WELNA: And they're all hoping fervently Gustav will veer away so their convention can get back on track.

David Welna, NPR News, St. Paul.

INSKEEP: So, that's the news of the Republicans.

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