RNC: Back on track | VailDaily.com

RNC: Back on track

Sara KuglerAssociated PressVail CO, Colorado
First lady Laura Bush, left, speaks to the media as Cindy McCain, wife of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, listens during a visit Monday, Sept. 1, 2008 to the Minneapolis Convention Center where volunteers were setting up to put comfort packages together for victims of Hurricane Gustav. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. Republicans swung their convention back on a political track Tuesday after a pause for Hurricane Gustav, giving President Bush a prime-time speaking slot to promote John McCain’s candidacy for the White House. Former Democrat Joe Lieberman and TV star and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson also got speaking roles.The president will address the convention by satellite from the White House.There was a flurry of last-minute changes as Republicans tried to patch together a new schedule for the three remaining days of their convention. Monday’s opening session was abbreviated and stripped of sharp political rhetoric as the nation kept its focus on Gustav, once seen as a major threat to the Gulf Coast. It landed with a blow that was less devastating than feared, allowing the GOP to lift the McCain-imposed ban on partisanship.Bush had been in line to speak to the convention in person Monday night but instead went to Texas to be with disaster workers as Gustav threatened the Gulf. Some Republicans had breathed a sigh of relief to have the unpopular president out of the way and off the television screens. But Bush still was guaranteed a warm welcome from fellow Republicans in the convention hall.The White House was so concerned about intruding on McCain’s show that aides would neither confirm nor even discuss the ongoing planning for what was widely known to be happening: the speech to delegates by the president on Tuesday night. Bush aides were hypersensitive about any move that might offend McCain or be seen as trumping his show a byproduct of McCain’s delicate effort to distance himself from the president.Thompson was one of McCain’s rivals for the Republican nomination. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in 2000 and now is a McCain supporter. Republicans say the two will talk about McCain’s life and their friendship with him.The revamped schedule suggested that convention planners were easing back into partisan politics with an appeal to independent-minded voters. Thompson is known by most voters for his portrayal of a gruff district attorney on NBC’s “Law & Order.”It was unclear whether Thompson had replaced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the convention keynoter and, if so, why. Convention planners said Giuliani would address the gathering in prime-time Wednesday or Thursday, though they did not know whether he would remain the keynote speaker as planned.Hamstrung by Gustav and distracted by the revelation that McCain running mate Sarah Palin’s unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, Republicans were trying to get back on track Tuesday.Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party after losing a Senate primary, has angered many Democrats by criticizing their nominee, Barack Obama.”I’m not going to spend any time tonight attacking Sen. Obama,” Lieberman told CNN, but he added that he would explain “why I am an independent Democrat voting for Sen. McCain.”

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