Carefully Crafted on August 31

Gustav and the GOP

Let me start by saying this: I hope Gustav misses NOLA and doesn’t cause major damage in any other parts of the Gulf Region. However, with the hurricane approaching landfall this week — at the same time the GOP is supposed to be holding its convention — there are some pretty interesting political issues raised.

My own thought: I hope the presidential candidates and their campaigns can show enough restraint and stay out of the way. Sure, this may present an opportunity for the candidates to look “presidential” and, specifically for McCain, to differentiate themselves from President Bush’s reaction to Katrina. However, with a presidential campaign comes motorcades, traffic problems and security issues. That is the last thing those people need during this crisis. I hope the campaigns just let the rescue workers to their work without making it even more complicated.

As far as how Gustav may impact the political process, — one of my favorite political blogs — had a great post today looking at this very issue. They offered five ways the storm could help the Republicans:

1. Allows McCain to Appear Magnanimous. By potentially delaying or canceling his “date” at the GOP convention, McCain appears as though he is giving something up to tend to the Gulf Coast. Sympathetic and neutral-to-sympathetic media outlets may view this as underscoring McCain’s “America First” theme.

2. Lowers Expectations Bar. The selection of Sarah Palin as the VP nominee has forced the GOP to shift abruptly from a “Ready to Lead” theme to an “America First” theme. While it is difficult to say whether one of these themes was intrinsically stronger than the other, odds are that a lot of speeches had to be re-engineered, probably rendering them less effective upon delivery. Gustav, however, may give the GOP a built-in “excuse” for more off-the-cuff, hastily-organized speeches.

3. Removes the Bush problem. The further Mr. 30% is from St. Paul, the better off the Republicans will be.

4. Do-Over. Americans have short memories, and a relatively more successful response to Gustav could allow the GOP to argue that it has redeemed itself for the mistake of Katrina.

5. Crisis Mentality May Benefit McCain. By appearing in New Orleans, and perhaps even delivering his acceptance speech from there, McCain will have the opportunity to appear “presidential”. Rather than asserting to that he is ready to lead — an assertion that was undermined the the selection of Palin — he may hope to give the appearance of actually demonstrating such leadership.

It will be interesting to see how this changes the political environment. Stay tuned …


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