Head Winds: Palin a Hit With the Base, but Outside Pressures Leave Clouds Over RNC

If the drama in Denver was contained squarely inside the Pepsi Center (only to be expelled into the mountain air with the confetti cannons at Invesco Field), the theater in St. Paul is feeling pressure that's building outside.

Between a hurricane problem and a football-schedule problem -- and a Ron Paul problem, an Arnold Schwarzenegger problem, a President Bush problem, not to mention a Dan Quayle problem and a Pat Buchanan problem -- Sen. John McCain's control over his own convention grows more limited by the hour.

(The funny thing is McCain may not care about that fact. Who better than a maverick to accept his party's nomination in a way that looks less than traditional?)

A senior White House official tells ABC's George Stephanopoulos that President Bush is almost certain to skip St. Paul. (And McCain surely doesn't care about that, either.)

Amid the somber mood and curtailed partying that is Hurricane Gustav's political wake even before the storm hits US soil, McCain's candidacy has more energy, but is also in more need of some redefinition, as he goes for broke with his vice-presidential pick. (Who's "dangerously inexperienced" now, pray tell?)

And here comes a bold start: McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin head to Mississippi on Sunday -- a visit designed more to remind voters of who they aren't more than of who they are.

The storm has the most potential to change the week's tone (and don't think Team McCain doesn't see the good side as well as the bad side of a few less parties and a few more ways to signal McCain's breaks with Bush).

McCain's visit is designed to make him what Bush wasn't -- though at the risk of a few stories tallying the police manpower soaked up by a political visit on the eve of a massive weather disruption.

Speaking of disruptions: "Republicans scrambled Saturday to make contingency plans for changing the tone of their national convention, worried that televised images of a lavish celebration would provide a jarring contrast to scenes of disaster and mass evacuations," Michael Abramowitz and Robert Barnes write in The Washington Post. "McCain advisers also said that the meticulously planned event may have to be radically altered if the storm begins to grow into a calamity like Katrina."

"It 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," McCain tells Fox News' Chris Wallace.

"If it looks like it's going to hit, we will, obviously, drastically change our plans," Cindy McCain tells ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview airing on "This Week" Sunday.

Per ABC News: "There is official business that is required to happen at the convention, like the actual nomination of John McCain and the platform ratification -- but [an official] added contingency plans are being considered regarding delegation travel and the program of speakers. . . . The Republican National Convention has set up a committee in Saint Paul to monitor Hurricane Gustav and evaluate its impact on the convention schedule."

Depending on how bad it is, "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite because of the historically huge hurricane threatening New Orleans, top officials said," per Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin.

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