Hurricane Gustav claimed its first victim before even hitting the US coast – the Republican Party Convention. And it is with no pomp and little politics that events in St Paul, Minnesota, are getting underway.
Keen to avoid comparisons with President Bush,
seen as out of touch during the Katrina catastrophe three years ago, John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin have been visiting crisis management facilities.
The would-be president says now is not the time for party politics.
“We will put aside our political hats and put on our American hats and we will do everything America needs to do and can do and must do and will do because that is the nature of our nation – to help any of the victims of this hurricane and we will do that now,” said McCain.
The President himself had already cancelled plans to address the convention today.
“In the light of these events, I will not be going to Minnesota for the Republican National Convention,” George W. Bush announced.
“I will travel down to Texas tomorrow to visit with the emergency operations centre in Austin, where co-ordination among federal, state and local government officials is occurring.”
Gustav has put Republicans in a delicate position. On the one hand, it has forced them to keep a low profile. Festivities would be inappropriate and any hint of political opportunism would not be well received. But, on the other hand, the party knows it must try to appear responsive.
In a tight race with Barack Obama, John McCain’s hope was to use the event as a headline-grabbing launchpad for the Republican presidential ticket.
It would be a chance for Americans to get to know ultra-conservative Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a popular choice in the eyes of the religious right. At 44, she brings youth to McCain’s campaign but, say critics, almost no high-level experience.