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GOP opens convention

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news Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

ST. PAUL -- Republicans dealt with distractions as they began their national convention Monday, but said the event still will be a success.

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First came Hurricane Gustav, whose surge and winds were less than predicted, but forced convention officials to trim their plans.

Then, Sen. John McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, released a statement saying her 17-year-old unwed daughter is pregnant.

Finally, protesters were smaller in numbers than predicted, but the Minnesota National Guard was called in to help police control them.

The convention likely will return to a more normal schedule today after only routine business and discussion about hurricane relief occurred Monday.

Republican officials said it appears that the traditional roll call of the states to nominate McCain and Palin will occur Wednesday night. Palin is expected to speak Wednesday night, and McCain should appear in person Thursday night.

Nearly 2,500 delegates, backed up by nearly that many alternates, met for an hour in session Monday afternoon, then recessed an hour before first lady Laura Bush and McCain's wife, Cindy, took the podium to encourage them to donate to flood relief.

Bush, whose husband canceled a scheduled speech to oversee Gustav-fighting efforts, said Americans always come to the aid of those in need and "transcend political parties and partisanship."

McCain and his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, separately encouraged Americans to donate to relief agencies such as the Red Cross.

Despite McCain's pleas to keep politics out of convention speeches Monday, Mrs. Bush could not resist. In introducing a video featuring Gulf Coast governors talking about the hurricane, said: "They are all strong leaders. They were planning to be with us today. They also all happen to be Republicans."

Mrs. McCain urged delegates to help.

"Together we can accomplish so much to help those who have been affected," she said.

Delegates said it was appropriate to think of the storm victims and tone down their convention.

"We need to put it in proper perspective," said Richard Koch of Jackson. "It focuses our energies appropriately."

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