The elephant in the room: GOP could postpone, retool convention

As Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast three years to the day after Katrina shattered New Orleans, Republicans say they could go so far as to delay next week’s national convention in St. Paul. Party officials tell The Washington Post it would be a public relations nightmare to stage a giant party during a natural disaster, but a hurricane that threatens New Orleans poses particular problems for the GOP.

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 disastrous.

Of course, Republican officials are probably beating the bushes for a reason to disinvite the unpopular incumbent president, who is sequestered on the opening night along with the even more unpopular Dick Cheny. But, if Gustav turns out to be as damaging a storm as predicted, Republican conventioneers would be facing split-screen coverage and constant reminders of the disaster that first put a chink in the Bush administration’s facade.

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Ernest Luning

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