Gustav overshadows first day of GOP convention

Alaska governor set to speak Wednesday

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 2008

ST. PAUL - Sen. John McCain's bold choice of Alaska's Sarah Palin as a running mate paid immediate benefits, but Hurricane Gustav may cost him much of that gain.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama's well-received and heavily watched Thursday night speech in Denver was poised to dominate the weekend news cycle. Then McCain's stunning selection of Alaska's Sarah Palin as his running mate stole Obama's thunder Friday and was the main topic of conversation all weekend.

By Monday, however, the talk of the convention became Hurricane Gustav.

"This is her chance to become known outside Alaska," said Bob Lynn, of Anchorage, an Alaska legislator and convention delegate.

Now, that's at risk.

Fears of reliving one of the first big debacles in the administration of President George Bush, the tardy response to Hurricane Katrina, has left Republicans here scaling back their convention.

Bush and Vice president Dick Cheney canceled their Monday appearances at the convention.

Already Palin has visited the Gulf Coast with McCain for briefings from the governors of those states. Palin was not scheduled to speak until Wednesday, and that is still thought likely to happen.

How much attention her speech will get is likely to depend on the seriousness of Hurricane Gustav.

The focus on Gustav may have taken the focus off of what would otherwise be big news, the announcement by Sarah and Todd Palin that their unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant.

"On any other day, this would be a big story," said Martha McCallum, host of Fox News Channel Live Desk, before returning to hurricane coverage.

The Palins issued a statement through the McCain campaign office asking the media to respect their daughter's privacy.

Anchorage resident Dolly Peach, in town for the convention, said she hoped that the media would respect the privacy of all of the Palin children.

"I don't think they've had this kind of attention before," she said.

Even as governor in Alaska, Sarah Palin drove herself around town, and in Juneau, would be seen shopping at Fred Meyer with her daughters.

As of Friday, Palin joined a different world.

• Reporter Pat Forgey is covering the Republican National Convention, and can be reached by e-mail at

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