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Parkite blogs for the GOP

Parkite Bruce Hough is blogging this week from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., where activities were scaled back Monday as the Gulf Coast braced for Hurricane Gustav.

"The Republican Party and the McCain campaign took exactly the right response and it showed great leadership," Hough said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "We basically cancelled everything [Monday] evening. The only thing that we did was officially open the meeting."

The more subdued, business-only tone was in deference to residents who saw the worst of Gustav as the storm thundered ashore. The memory of Hurricane Katrina was still fresh in the minds of Americans, Sen. John McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Party officials scrambled to turn the convention into a fundraising drive. By the time McCain said the opening session would be much-curtailed, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had already canceled speeches planned for the Republicans’ gala opening that was to conclude with McCain formally accepting the party nomination Thursday night. Bush was headed to Texas to be near emergency operations.

"This is just one of those moments in history where you have to put America first," McCain told NBC television Monday.

The presumptive Republican nominee and his running mate hoped to show a different face to the Republicans still blemished by the government’s response to Katrina.

Members of the GOP delegation from Utah spent Monday night helping gather hygiene kits for hurricane victims, said Hough, Utah’s Republican national committeeman.

"One thing you can never control is the weather and this is hurricane season. We certainly didn’t want a repeat of Katrina," Hough said. "This convention is about service to others and I think you’ll see a strong theme of service John McCain has spent his life in service to this country, particularly as a POW (in Vietnam.)"

But despite the convention delays there was no shortage of storylines that included the revelation that Palin’s 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant.

"There are a lot of people in this situation. I have six daughters and it’s the kind of thing that but for the grace of God it could be our family," said Hough. "I know many of my children’s friends and contemporaries who have become pregnant at an early age and kept the baby."

A statement released by the campaign said that Bristol Palin will keep her baby and marry the child’s father. The baby is due in late December.

The situation may increase Sarah Palin’s appeal to voters, Hough said.

"She is married, has children and will soon have grandchildren," Hough said about the vice presidential candidate. "She has been the hockey mom and the PTA president. She has done the things that thousands upon thousands of women have also done and she has taken it a step further."

Palin also has more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, Hough claimed.

"She has regular negotiations with Russia on fishing rights and oil exploration in the Alaskan coast area," Hough said. "She has more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama has by a long shot."

The GOP convention’s theme is "Country First."

"[Palin’s] experience is extraordinarily relevant to this situation," Hough said. "There are some who were going to support [Hillary Clinton] because she is a woman and they like [Palin] a lot."

Palin does not "fit the mold of what everybody thinks ought to be a running mate," Hough said.

"The Democrat women have got to just be crying in their coffee," he said. "They were thinking to themselves, ‘This is our year, the year the Democratic Party is going to elect a woman to the White House.’ And it looks like it’s going to be the Republican Party that does it."

Hough is writing an Internet Web log from the convention that can be viewed at brucehough.blogspot.com.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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