The Washington Post reports this morning that the GOP is considering delaying the start of the Republican National Convention as Tropical Storm Gustav approaches the Gulf of Mexico:
Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.
The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.
For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain’s formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.
Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious. “Senator McCain has always been sensitive to national crisis,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, noting that the senator postponed announcing his presidential candidacy in 2000 because of the war in the Balkans. “We are monitoring the situation very closely.”
This morning, Gustav is still a Tropical Storm and still south of Cuba, but the forecast track has it heading for New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf Coast, with a projected arrival sometime Wednesday morning:
Doesn’t look good, does it ?
Of course, as one former White House adviser notes, Gustav could do McCain a favor if it forces Bush to cancel his speech:
Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who said in a recent book that Hurricane Katrina left “an indelible stain” on the Bush presidency, said Bush should be making plans to cancel his speech.
“If it’s a major hurricane, I think that they certainly need to show they learned lessons from three years ago, both from a policy and perception standpoint,” McClellan said.
He also suggested that McCain could benefit politically from such a scenario: It would allow Bush to mount an effective GOP response to a disaster, while removing the unpopular president from the convention roster. “It could be a two-fer,” McClellan said.
Given the fact that a McCain-as-third-Bush-term idea is clearly going to be a part of the Democratic campaign this fall, Gustav could end up doing John McCain a favor.