(CNN) - First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain addressed the Republican National Convention Monday evening, delivering abbreviated remarks due to Hurricane Gustav.
George and I were planning to come to enjoy this convention to have a really good time," Laura Bush said. "And we would have been here tonight speaking, but, of course as we all know, events on the Gulf Coast region have changed the focus of our attention. And our first priority now, today, is to ensure the safety and the well-being of those living in the gulf coast region.
Joining Bush on stage after a video message from four governors of states affected by the storm, Cindy McCain, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, urged delegates to help with hurricane relief.
"I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible," she said. "As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats."
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – Cindy McCain and first lady Laura Bush will appear before the Republican convention Monday to encourage people to donate to the relief efforts in the Gulf region, a senior McCain campaign official told reporters in a conference call.
Republican officials have dramatically scaled back the first day of the convention as Hurricane Gustav slammed into the Louisiana coast. In addition to Bush and McCain appearances, the convention will perform the bare bones official business needed to start the convention. Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager, emphasized that all political activity will be suspended for the time being.
“We hope to regain our schedule at some point,” Davis said.
Davis also said that Target and FedEx will help convention attendees and the Red Cross send care packages to the Gulf region. Later in the week, delegates, staff and other volunteers will meet in Minneapolis to assemble the care packages. In addition, the McCain campaign is setting up a phone bank in the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis to raise money for Gulf Coast charities.
PITTSBURGH, Pennslyvania (CNN) - Hurricane Gustav is having an impact on both sides of the aisle: hours after prompting Republican John McCain to scale back the GOP convention schedule, the storm is affecting the plans of his Democratic counterparts as well.
Citing the dire situation along the Gulf Coast, Senator Joe Biden cancelled his plans to march in Pittsburgh's annual Labor Day parade Monday. Instead, Biden was to give a statement on the hurricane at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Watch: Biden reacts to Gustav
The campaign still planned to hold two afternoon events in Scranton, Pennsylvania, including a discussion on jobs and the economy at Biden's childhood home.
(CNN) - Barack Obama has spoken with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about Hurricane Gustav preparations, Obama advisor Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
He was briefed on the status of the storm, the evacuation process and coordination between federal, state and local authorities, Gibbs said.
(CNN) - The Democratic National Committee has canceled its Sunday event welcoming members of the media covering the Republican National Convention.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in the region," DNC spokesman Damien LaVera said.
LIMA, Ohio (CNN) - After attending church Sunday morning, Obama repeated his message to Gulf Coast residents to escape the wrath of Hurricane Gustav by evacuating, and said he would talk with officials to see if the campaign’s network of volunteers and donors can be used to help.
“There is enormous urgency in making sure that people take the evacuation seriously,” said Obama. “They are doing everything they can to execute an effective evacuation but we need people’s cooperation.”
“What we want to do is we want to find out first from folks on the ground what is going to be most helpful. We don’t want to solicit a bunch of canned goods that cant get there, or bottles of water and then learn that they already have water,” he later added. “So we are going to wait over the next 48 hours to find out what would be the most useful. I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary.”
“So it becomes a question of what people on the ground need and once we determine that then we can activate our email list of a couple of million people who want to give back,” he continued.
John McCain headed to the region on Saturday but Obama said he was hesitant to do the same because he was afraid of drawing away local law and emergency resources that are needed whenever he travels. McCain visited a command center in Mississippi where mandatory evacuation is not in effect and Obama said he thought it was ‘fine’ that the Arizona senator wanted to see the situation for himself.
Obama appeared more confident Saturday in preparations made for the storm than he had on Friday night, saying he had spoken to the head of FEMA who told him buses are ready to get people out, unlike when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
“There appears to be better coordination between the state and the city in Louisiana,” said Obama. “I haven’t spoken to folks in Mississippi or Alabama. It appears there is coordination between the four states that there wasn’t last time. So my hope is that we all learned from the terrible lesson that we saw after Katrina and Rita.”
Obama also called into local Gulf Coast media to further encourage listeners and viewers to evacuate, telling them that the country praying for them. He plans to speak with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff later Sunday.
UPDATE: The campaign has posted information for Gulf Coast residents on its blog, as well as links to the Red Cross and Save the Children Web sites for supporters who want to donate.
The post tells visitors that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has declared a mandatory evacuation, gives the Louisiana emergency hotline number, and links to the state's Web site for any other emergency information needed. It also has a variety of links for Mississippi.
PEARL, Mississippi (CNN) - Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain told reporters Sunday there would be significant changes to the upcoming GOP convention, saying it would be inappropriate to hold a political celebration in light of the imminent arrival of Hurricane Gustav.
“We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans," said McCain.
The Arizona senator, who spoke after his tour of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Pearl, Mississippi, did not elaborate on what those changes might be, instead saying the campaign will release a statement in the next few hours.
McCain did say the convention would need to transition from a "party event" to a "call to the nation for action": "I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention if necessary, to act as Americans not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are
Republican or Democrat.’’