(CNN) - Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler apologized Sunday for recently joking Hurricane Gustav's expected landfall on the same day as the opening of the Republican National Convention suggested God was on the Democrats' side.
A YouTube video of the comments posted by the conservative blog RedState.org and showed Fowler joking with South Carolina Rep. John Spratt about the timing of the hurricane while on a flight from the Democratic National Convention back to South Carolina. The person who filmed the conversation is not identified.
“The hurricane is going to hit New Orleans about the time they start. The timing is, at least it appears now, it will be there Monday. That just demonstrates God is on our side,” Fowler said, while laughing. Fowler also told Spratt that “everything’s cool.”
Speaking to the Associated Press Sunday, Fowler said his comments were intended to make light of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's remark that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was God's punishment for abortion and homosexuality.
On Sunday, Fowler told The Associated Press that he was making fun of comments made by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the attacks were God's punishment for abortion, homosexuality and other sins.
"I don't believe in a God that's vengeful," Fowler said. "I believe in a God that's compassionate."
"This is a point of national concern. I think everybody of good will has great empathy and sympathy for people in New Orleans," Fowler also said. "Most religious people are praying for people in New Orleans. There is no political connotation to this whatsoever. This was just poking fun at Jerry Falwell and the nonsensical thing he had said several years ago."
South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson sharply criticized Fowler's comments, saying, “The outrageous behavior of two of the Obama campaign's highest profile supporters in the south is despicable, a cynical polarization of life and death. I call on Barack Obama to immediately denounce Fowler and Spratt and demand sincere apologies from these members of the Democratic leadership.”
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - On the eve of the Republican convention, a new national poll suggests the race for the White House remains dead even.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Sunday night shows the Obama-Biden ticket leading the McCain-Palin ticket by one point, 49 percent to 48 percent, a statistical dead heat.
The survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, after both the conclusion of the Democratic convention and McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
A previous CNN poll, taken just one week earlier, suggested the race between Sens. McCain, R-Arizona, and Obama, D-Illinois, was tied at 47 percent each.
“The convention - and particularly Obama's speech - seems to be well-received. And the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate, also seems to be well-received. So why is the race still a virtual tie? Probably because the two events created equal and opposite bounces - assuming that either one created a bounce at all,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – A celebration of New Orleans culture will take on a more somber tone Monday, as plans for a large party at the Republican convention has been scaled back because of Hurricane Gustav.
Gustav is set to make landfall at sunrise, potentially delivering a devastating blow to New Orleans, which is still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city causing massive death and destruction.
The “New Orleans All-Star Jam-Balaya” was designed to highlight the city’s culture as well as bring attention to the ongoing reconstruction efforts. It is being paid for by a diverse group of companies ranging from Roll Call newspaper, PhRMA, and the National Restaurant Association and featured New Orleans musicians, an open bar and cuisine that has helped to put the city on the map. The musicians will still play, but the drinks are no longer free and they are scaling back on the food.
Instead the focus will now be on raising money for relief organizations that are expected to be overwhelmed once the storm passes as well as educating the 1,500 people that are expected to attend the event about the needs of the region.
“We want to make sure we are talking about what needs to happen for long-term protection of the city and to sustain a long term building effort,” said Emily Byram, executive director of the Friends of New Orleans, which is organizing the event.
TOLEDO, Ohio (CNN) – Joe Biden says there are obvious differences between himself and fellow vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but they’re not just on policy. She’s good-looking.
“There’s a gigantic difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and between me and I suspect my vice presidential opponent,” Biden said at an outdoor rally Sunday, getting ready to hit the GOP ticket for their economic policies.
“She’s good-looking,” he quipped.
“You are gorgeous!” a female supporter in the audience shouted out. Biden asked her to repeat it into the microphone so his wife at home would hear.
“I haven’t heard that in a long, long, long time,” Biden said as the audience laughed. “Being around this lean young-looking guy is making me feel pretty old, you know what I mean? I thought I was in pretty good shape until I hung out with this guy.”
At the rooftop rally, both Biden and Obama commented on Palin for the first time without prompting from reporters. Obama joked he’s now considering going to Palin’s home state of Alaska – the only state he says he hasn’t visited – but chose to focus his comments on her position on equal pay for women.
“John McCain’s new VP nominee seems like a very engaging person, a nice person. But I’ve got to say, she’s opposed – like John McCain is – to equal pay for equal work. That doesn’t make much sense to me.”
Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella called Obama's comments a disgrace and "an absurd accusation."
Obama later made sure his running mate realizes he's good-looking as well.
“You see, she thinks you’re gorgeous too Joe,” said Obama. “Jill goes back home and look what happens!”
“This is worth the run,” responded Biden.
St. Paul, MINNESOTA (CNN) - The convention for former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will go on as planned, the campaign said Sunday, despite the RNC’s decision to truncate their program.
With Hurricane Gustav approaching the Gulf Coast, Republicans announced that they would hold an abbreviated session Monday and determine the rest of the week’s schedule on a day-by-day basis.
Paul’s campaign said it decided to stick with their schedule because it didn’t want to have to turn down the 10,000 people expected to attend the three-day event.
The “Rally for the Republic” kicked off Sunday with a training class for those interested in learning the skills needed to be an activist, according to the convention’s Web site.
Monday’s schedule includes musical performances from Rockie Lynne‚ Aimee Allen‚ Mark Scibilia and Rick Ellis, and late-night speech by Paul.
The main event takes place Tuesday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. When planning for the event began earlier this year, it was originally scheduled to take place at the University of Minnesota, but due to a “strong initial response,” it was moved to The Target in Minneapolis, which can house up to 18,000 people.
Speakers Tuesday include NBC’s Tucker Carlson, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse and another appearance by Paul.
The rally will officially launch Paul’s new political action group: the “Campaign for Liberty.”
"The Rally for the Republic will send a powerful, positive message to the Republican Party that there is an army of grassroots activists across the country ready to work with them if steer back to their traditions of limited government and personal liberty," said Campaign for Liberty spokesman Jesse Benton.
(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.
ST. PAUL (CNN) – More information about how Monday's abbreviated opening session of the Republican convention will run should be available in the next several hours.
According to Credential Committee Chairman James Herring, a conference call is underway with RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and others to figure out the
details of what needs to take place tomorrow in order to meet convention rules.
Herring is also the chair of Mississippi's Republican Party and plans to meet with his delegation later today to assess whether anyone needs to go home to prepare for Hurricane Gustav. Herring said the priority for his delegation is to protect everyone's "life" and "property" but "we also need a quorum" to complete convention business.
caption="McCain addressed Republican delegates Sunday."]St. Paul (CNN) – Sen. John McCain said the Republican National Convention will suspend most of the activities scheduled Monday because of Hurricane Gustav.
“We’ll pray for the best and prepare for the worst,” the presumptive Republican presidential candidate said Sunday, quoting Gulf Coast Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Campaign manager Rick Davis said Republicans would meet in an abbreviated fashion, conducting only what was necessary to constitute a convention, such as calling the convention to order, receiving a report from the credentials committee and adopting the party platform.
“Tomorrow’s program will be business only and will refrain from any political rhetoric,” he said.
The convention will begin at its regularly scheduled time, 3 p.m. CT. Davis said the convention would adjourn around 5 or 5:30 PM.
The GOP’s four-day program was originally scheduled to begin Monday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Davis said the rest of the week would be determined on a day-by-day basis.
Earlier Sunday, Sen. John McCain said it wouldn't be appropriate to hold a political celebration during the storm.
"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," he said, adding that it was likely the event would change into a "call to the nation for action."
"I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention ... to act as Americans, not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat," he said.
Also on Sunday, the White House announced that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would not be in attendance.
UPDATE: John McCain will attend some small events Monday in Pennsylvania, a senior aide tells CNN. The aide, though, notes that McCain doesn’t “have a really busy day” as he keeps a close eye on Hurricane Gustav.
The senior aide also said that the campaign has asked the state parties “to be all very respectful” given the situation and to help raise money for various relief agencies.
ST. Paul, Minnesota (CNN) - Be sure to keep your Web browser pointed at The Political Ticker and refresh the page often.
From St. Paul, The Ticker team is providing a constant stream of updates on how Hurricane Gustav is affecting the Republican National Convention and the candidates on the campaign trail.
RELATED: Gustav prompts 'substantial' changes to RNC agenda
ST. PAUL (CNN) - This year's Minnesota State Fair attendees hoping to eat a Snickers on a stick or watch a cow give birth can do both those things and also register to vote.
With some form of the Republican convention as a backdrop, and the presidential election just over 60 days away, the Minnesota State Fair resembled a political rally Saturday with fair-goers sporting "McCain," "Obama," and "NObama" buttons as they perused the fair's myriad of fried offerings. Both state parties hosted booths where voters could pick up literature, chat with campaign representatives or just mingle with like-minded Minnesotans.
A giant poster of now vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin dominated the Minnesota GOP's white clapboard house that sat across from a buzzing crepe stand. "McCain's pick Sarah Palin governor of Alaska" was the hand scrawled caption on a clip board.
"It was a very big surprise," said Georgia from southern Minnesota of McCain's choice for number two. "She does bring the fact she is a woman to the ticket and she's got some experience having been involved as governor of Alaska." Georgia picked McCain at the fair's GOP straw poll last year.
"She's a woman she can learn fast," said Kathy from Bursville in response to critics who say Palin lacks experience. "I thought she could kick it."