Republicans Curtail Convention Opening Day

But in this case, with most of the big anchors leaving Minneapolis for New Orleans, including ABC's Charles Gibson, the Republicans on Sunday asked the media not to cover the bare-bones convention opening at all.

"McCain has taken the extra step of saying 'we're not going to have any convention events outside of legal necessity,' which reinforces how big of an event Katrina was for Bush and how McCain wants to be seen handling this completely differently," said Republican pollster and strategist David Winston in Minneapolis for the convention.

'Republicans Have Their Priorities in Order'

Republicans who came to Minneapolis expecting a party agreed politically with the decision.

"It's the right decision in light of the impending hurricane," Republican strategist Whit Ayers told ABC "I'm not disappointed at all. It's an expression of concern for the people along the Gulf Coast, and a signal that Republicans have their priorities in order."

With the opening day of the convention largely suspended, some lobbyists also altered their party plans.

Organizers of one of the week's most anticipated parties, hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council, announced they would urge Republican invitees to donate to the Red Cross at the door Monday night.

"Due to the growing threat to our nation from Hurricane Gustav, the sponsors of the Spirits of Minneapolis event on Monday night have made a collective decision to change the event into the Spirits of the Gulf Coast, shifting the focus to a fundraiser for . . . the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund," organizers said in an email to invitees.

"To that end, we will have a senior Red Cross representative in attendance and we will encourage everyone to make a donation to the Fund at the door," the email said. "In addition, the event sponsors will make a large matching contribution and present a check at 10:30 p.m."

GOP leaders are eager to avoid the image of Republicans schmoozing at parties during their convention week while Americans flee their homes and businesses on the Gulf Coast.

NRA Party at RNC Went on As Planned

The curtailed Republican convention program didn't stop Republican lobbyists and the National Rifle Association from partying the night away in Minneapolis Sunday, however.

The NRA, Lockheed Martin, the American Trucking Association and a Republican lobbying firm called The LeMunyon Group hosted a party at Gluek's Restaurant & Bar in Minneapolis for about 200 people that went on Sunday night as planned.

Another group that did not curtail its efforts because of the storm was the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, which held a large anti-Iraq war protest that went off at noon at the Minnesota State Capitol Building. Following the rally, protesters marched to the convention hall.

"Hurricane Gustav affects the Republican Party because they don't want to be seen as ignoring another crisis as they did when they left people to die on freeway overpasses," said Meredith Aby of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War.

"The demonstration will be voicing opposition to the war's prioritization above human needs such as building levees, the economy, health care," she wrote in an e-mail press release.

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