RNC dispatch, Tom Kirk | VailDaily.com

RNC dispatch, Tom Kirk

Nikki Inglis
Vail CO, Colorado

AP PhotoU.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., waves as he tours the podium at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008. Lieberman is scheduled to speak Tuesday night.

ST. PAUL, MINN. ” Everything is running smoothly at the Republican National Convention, despite Hurricane Gustav’s intrusion on the Gulf Coast, said West Vail resident Tom Kirk, a Colorado delegate at the convention.

Right now, politics are not the main concern to Republicans, who are meeting in St. Paul, Minn., Kirk said.

“Fundamentally the idea is, how can we talk about winning an election right now when we have friends losing their homes?” Kirk said.

Much of the beginning of the convention was “toned down” due to the news of the devastation that Hurricane Gustav might bring, Kirk said. He said that everyone in St. Paul was waiting with bated breath, hoping that the levies wouldn’t fail again.

All of the speakers scheduled for Monday were canceled, including President George Bush, who is currently in the Gulf Coast visiting response centers. Bush gave his speech supporting John McCain via satellite Tuesday night.

Although Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were both keynote speakers, Kirk said that everyone is under the impression that what they’re doing is much more important.

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“We’ve decided to say that we’ve all got to become Americans, come together and stop politics for now,” Kirk said. “And that’s been the theme of the convention so far.”

Despite the confusion surrounding the hurricane and the shift in priorities, Kirk said that the convention was getting “back on track” Tuesday evening. McCain and running mate Sarah Palin will be arriving as planned on Thursday.

Kirk has been a part of a group of four friends of McCain who speak to a different delegation each morning of the convention about McCain’s character and his qualifications for president.

“I think it’s good for the delegations, because they know him as a candidate and they know his records, but now they can get to know him personally,” Kirk said.

Kirk and McCain were prisoners of war together in Vietnan, and Kirk said he can attest to McCain’s strength of character.

When reached Tuesday evening, Kirk had finished filming a segment for CBS News along with other POWs who knew McCain during the Vietnam War. The interview will air at 9 a.m. on Thursday. He was about join the other POWs in attendance to listen to the speeches of Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Sen. Fred Thompson voice their support for John McCain.

“I don’t think the campaign has been hurt by Hurricane Gustav,” Kirk said. “I think it has only been strengthened. I think that everyone is thinking we did the right thing by focusing on America and not on politics.”