McCain, Palin in Pa.; convention monitors storm

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- John McCain introduced new running mate Sarah Palin to voters in battleground Pennsylvania on Saturday as they wound their way toward St. Paul and a Republican National Convention where the mood was suddenly threatened by Hurricane Gustav.

Gulf state governors could decide to remain at home if the storm threatens to bring serious damage. It could also affect Monday's opening-night address by President Bush. Gustav's projected path suggests it will make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday on Louisiana's central coast.

Said McCain: "You know it just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster, so we're monitoring it from day to day, and I'm saying a few prayers, too."

He commented in an interview taped for "Fox News Sunday."

A top McCain aide, Mark Salter, said the campaign is drawing up contingency plans for what to do about the convention depending on when and where the storm hits. But he cautioned that it didn't mean the gathering would be canceled outright.

"It might change what we do at the convention" but wouldn't necessarily mean calling it off, Salter said.

Good luck wish

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, in his first direct comment on McCain's unexpected running-mate choice, said he had called her Friday to wish her luck, "but not too much."

McCain and Palin made a morning stop at Tom's Diner in Pittsburgh's trendy Southside neighborhood. The running mates, with spouses in tow, greeted patrons and posed for pictures. Palin's daughters Willow and Piper were also on hand, with Willow carrying Palin's 4-month old son, Trig.

The first-term Alaska governor told reporters she was having fun in her new role. "It's great to see another part of the country," she said.

Palin also issued her first fundraising appeal, saying in an e-mail, "Some of life's greatest opportunities come unexpectedly, and this is certainly the case for me."

A day after his surprise selection of Palin, McCain planned to work part of the day on his convention acceptance speech.

With memories still vivid of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the possibility of serious damage threatened to cast a pall over the convention. It also could keep away some prominent governors -- including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Mississippi's Haley Barbour. Depending on the path the storm takes, it could also affect the plans of governors Bob Riley of Alabama, Rick Perry of Texas and Charlie Crist of Florida.

Gustav a Category 4

Bush, faced with the chance of another devastating hurricane during his presidency, called Gulf Coast governors Saturday and conferred with federal officials to keep a close watch on developments, said spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Forecasters on Saturday said Gustav had strengthened to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds near 145 mph. The National Hurricane Center called it an "extremely dangerous" storm.

The president has been widely criticized for the way the government dealt with Katrina and its aftermath.

But the convention was still on schedule in St. Paul.

"There are no plans for any postponement," said Mike Miller, director of operations. "We plan to start when we're going to start and end when we're going to end.

Elsewhere:

* Protesters said police raided three Minneapolis homes Saturday after a late-night raid on a building used by protest organizers. No arrests were made, but the protesters said deputies seized laptops, protest literature, bus schedules, a map and sign-making materials. Sheriff Bob Fletcher said authorities moved to head off efforts to disrupt the convention.

* Not invited to the convention, backers of Rep. Ron Paul, defeated in the Republican presidential primaries, were flocking into town for their own counter-convention, which they dubbed "Ronstock '08."

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