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Hurricane Could Force Delay of Republican Convention Start

About 45,000 participants - including Republican Party delegates as well as visitors and news media professionals - are heading to the twin cities of St. Paul-Minneapolis for next week's nominating convention. During the convention in the central U.S. state of Minnesota, the Republican Party will formally name Senator John McCain as its candidate for president to face Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee in the November election. Although the convention is scheduled to open Monday, party officials say they might delay it if a hurricane strikes New Orleans early next week. VOA's Jim Fry previews the upcoming convention.

The Republican Party will nominate Senator John McCain for president in the Xcel Energy Center, an indoor sports arena in St. Paul, Minnesota.

National political conventions have turned into highly produced sound and light shows. "We've got seven spotlights, 1,900 linear feet of fiber - wire, excuse me - to go around for all the lights," says Maria Cino, Republican Convention CEO. "Don't look up too often," she warns. "It's about [90,000 kilograms] that is above us."

Conventions these days are staged for national television audiences. They are a procession of images and speakers highlighting the party's and nominee's strengths.

This year, the prospective nominee Senator McCain is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Congress and a former prisoner of war in Vietnam. He often touts his knowledge of national security issues.

David Mark is a senior editor at the website Politico.com. He says Republicans are likely to talk about threats to U.S. security. "I think the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia will be played up a lot and used as an example of the kind of challenge the next president will have to face," says Mark.

The Republican candidate's wife, Cindy McCain, was in Georgia visiting people who were displaced by Russia's military offensive, even as Democrats met in Denver. "I know one of your questions is: 'Did I do this because it's during the Democratic National Convention?' The answer is, 'no.' I couldn't get in any quicker," she told her audience.

The prospective first lady will speak to the convention on Wednesday evening. John McCain's vice presidential choice, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, is also scheduled to speak on Wednesday. But that will be only the warm up act for the most important moment of any U.S. political convention - the moment the nominee gives his acceptance speech on prime time television.

President Bush is scheduled to speak to the convention - but he and Vice President Dick Cheney have low job approval numbers in public opinion polls. "They will have speaking roles the first night, on Monday," says Politico.com's David Mark. "But after that, they will be whisked out of town and never heard from again."

And with tropical cyclone Gustav threatening the U.S. gulf coast, party leaders say the event could be delayed if a major hurricane strikes the U.S. mainland.

The federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago is considered a low point of the Bush administration. Mr. Bush is said to be considering canceling his appearance should New Orleans suffer another direct hit.

But if all goes as planned, the traditional balloon drop and hoopla will cap the last night of the convention, and the general election campaign between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama will begin.

 

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