ST PAUL, Minn. (CNN) – Two Republican officials tell CNN “substantial” changes to the Republican National Convention program will be announced Sunday because of Hurricane Gustav.
One option on the table is delaying the planned Monday opening of the convention, both sources said, though one of them said “that has not been decided. We need a few more hours to look at all of the contingencies. But there will be some substantial adjustments.”
Already, the White House has said President Bush is unlikely to come. Other officials involved in the convention planning said it has already been decided that Mr. Bush will not attend, and instead is likely to address the convention’s Monday session, if there is one, via satellite. First Lady Laura Bush is scheduled to attend.
The final decisions will be made after top McCain campaign aide Rick Davis meets Sunday with convention planners in St. Paul. Shaping those decisions will be briefings Senator McCain has received in the past 24 hours from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, FEMA Director David Paulison and several Gulf Coast governors. “It’s a dire outlook and we need to make some changes,” one McCain campaign official said. “But this has never happened before to anyone’s convention so we need some time to touch all the bases.”
(CNN) – President Bush is unlikely to be attending the Republican National Convention as planned because of Hurricane Gustav, the White House said Sunday.
The president had been scheduled to address delegates in St. Paul Monday night.
"Due to the hurricane, the president is unlikely to travel to Minnesota on Monday,” White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “We are working on alternate preparations and we'll provide details as soon as possible.”
In a conference call with reporters Saturday, Perino said the White House was making contingency plans for the president's travel schedule before and after the hurricane, given what she described as one of the largest and strongest storms to hit America since modern record-keeping began.
Officials had already developed an alternate scenario for Bush’s speech as the storm’s intensity grew, telling CNN Saturday that if the president was not on hand at the convention site, first lady Laura Bush would give a longer speech than planned.
Under this scenario, the president himself would then speak via satellite from the White House or a location affected by the storm. The White House said then that a final logistical decision would likely not be made until Sunday evening, or perhaps Monday.
DUBLIN, Ohio (CNN) – Barack Obama and Joe Biden urged Gulf Coast residents to evacuate as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the region.
"Even if you've ridden out this storm before, even if you think that it may pass over, even if you think that you can wait until the last minute, this is going to be, potentially, very, very serious," said Obama, in a hastily assembled press conference in front of their campaign bus in Central Ohio. "For your own safety and your family's safety, people have to follow the instructions of the officials there to make sure that this evacuation is going smoothly."
Obama spoke to officials including FEMA Director R. David Paulison, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Saturday and said he was passing along their message to evacuate. Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans Saturday, calling Gustav "the storm of the century."
Biden also spoke directly to those in the storm's path, telling them to get out of town to avoid weather that may be worse than Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
"Those folks who rode out, do not ride out again, ride out of town. Get out of town. Do what the governor is suggesting, what the mayor is suggesting, what the senators are suggesting. Get out of town," said Biden.
Obama says they're monitoring the situation and urged continued cooperation between FEMA and the Gulf Coast states, noting that not just Louisiana is likely going to be affected but Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Texas.
Word came late Saturday that John McCain would visit an emergency command post in Jackson, Mississippi on Sunday. Asked if he would visit the area, Obama said that because of the large number of staff and press traveling with him, he might be a distraction.
"I will do whatever is required that is useful but right now the main thing that's useful is letting everybody out there know, please evacuate the area," said Obama.