- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

St. Paul

With everyone here in St. Paul relieved that Hurricane Gustav did not cause a catastrophic natural disaster in the Gulf states yesterday, convention planners are now scrambling to get this program back on track. GOP officials told me they still want to emphasize their concern about the storm while also turning the narrative around to one that underscores GOP managerial competence on the part of governors such as Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

GOP officials hope another message is resonating from yesterday: John McCain puts “Country First” and America’s needs above partisan politics. A line repeated a lot on Monday both by Mr. McCain and his wife Cindy as she addressed the convention at around 5:30 pm was: “It’s time to take off our partisan hats and put on our American hats.”

Tonight, the convention continues to hammer on those themes. Senator Joe Lieberman is scheduled to speak — emphasizing the examples of bipartisan cooperation we witnessed while working with Mr. McCain. Former Senator Fred Thompson will also address the convention tonight. Expect both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Thompson to focus on Mr. McCain’s real track record of bipartisanship compared to Barrack Obama’s promises and rhetoric.

President Bush is also scheduled to address the GOP convention tonight via satellite. Expect him to endorse Mr. McCain strongly and pay tribute to his service, patriotism and track record of reform.

Overall, convention planners hope to focus on three big themes in the next few days. First, Mr. McCain puts country first — witness his leadership and that he changed the course of the convention to address the potential consequences of the hurricane. He put the needs of the people of the Gulf Coast ahead of his party’s desire to move ahead with a partisan event. Second, he is a reformer — Mr. McCain is willing to stand up to entrenched interests and bring about real change — not just hope for it. The campaign believes Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also reinforces those themes. Third, he will restore managerial competence. These final two messages are both aimed at “disaffected Republicans” concerned about earmarks, spending and mismanagement. Aligning with successful GOP governors (such as Mr. Jindal, Mrs. Palin and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour) helps underscore that narrative.

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