The Note: The Politics of Gustav

"Gustav's political impact promises to be just as hard to forecast as its path toward the Gulf Coast, confronting Republicans with anything from a catastrophe to an unexpected opportunity to demonstrate leadership instead of talking about it," Bob Van Sternberg and Mike Kaszuba write in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"By radically truncating their convention, at least for now, the Republicans are staging a near-oxymoron -- a political convention that could end up being free of politics and devoid of speeches. While that robs them of their nationally amplified megaphone, it also allows them to stand above the fray, raising money for hurricane victims and praying for them aloud."

"What is traditionally a four-day infomercial is now a gathering of Republicans struggling over how to convey their philosophy and promote their presidential candidate without showing a hint of celebration amidst others' misery," Gannett's Chuck Raasch writes.

"It's not the convention the Republicans had planned," ABC's Jennifer Parker writes.

There are worse images than this: "While it may deprive the Republicans a major showcase for the party's nominees in the November, it also provides McCain an opportunity to lead his party during a national humanitarian effort," Brian Mooney writes in The Boston Globe. "Scheduled speakers will stay in the Twin Cities area in the event a full convention resumes, and their texts will be reviewed to make sure they are appropriate for the convention's new depoliticized tone."

Gustav just might elbow out the only storyline that might have approached Clinton-Obama proportions this week: Bush-McCain.

"The marquee act for opening night just canceled, but some Republicans couldn't be happier," Doyle MacManus and James Gerstenzang write in the Los Angeles Times. "It's a good thing," said former Rep. Dick Zimmer, the GOP Senate candidate in New Jersey.

For the GOP, it's an opportunity to put the "country first" theme into action.

For the Obama-Biden ticket, for now, it's being handled from afar: No visit to the Gulf Coast, at least until after the storm has passed. And Obama is putting his e-mail list into action to help storm victims.

"It's a tricky thing, asking for votes at jubilant campaign rallies while thousands of miles South a natural disaster looms," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "[Sen. Joe] Biden and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., have decided to handle it by mentioning Gustav frequently on the campaign trail, activating supporters, phoning federal, state, and local officials to be debriefed and to offer help -- and otherwise to campaign as previously scheduled."

Which meant an attack on McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin on gender pay equity. "I've got to say, she's opposed like John McCain is to equal pay for equal work. That doesn't make much sense to me," Obama said Sunday, per ABC's Sunlen Miller.

Which meant this response from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis: "So he attacks us while there's a hurricane going on and John McCain suspends his convention basically. What bigger contrast can you have about putting your country first?" Davis tells Politico's Jonathan Martin.

It's all business in St. Paul: a 4 pm ET (3 pm CT) call to order, and motoring through business that should be done by 6:30 pm ET (5:30 pm CT).

The protests, at least, are on: The big antiwar demonstrations start at the state Capitol grounds at noon ET (11 am CT).

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