(AFP) – Sep 1, 2008
ST PAUL, Minnesota (AFP) — First Lady Laura Bush and John McCain's wife Cindy on Monday led a fundraising drive for Hurricane Gustav victims on day one of the curtailed Republican convention.
"Our first priority for today and in the coming days is to ensure the safety and well-being of those living in the Gulf Coast Region," said Bush, who drew a long standing ovation as she walked onto the stage.
"To all of those living in the Gulf states, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you," she said as Hurricane Gustav lashed New Orleans.
"When such events occur, we are reminded that first, we are all Americans -- and that our shared American ideals will always transcend political parties and partisanship."
Republican presumptive nominee John McCain ordered the suspension of most of the political activities on the convention's opening day as a mark of respect to Gulf Coast communities feeling Gustav's wrath.
His wife, who stood side-by-side on stage with Bush, who she hopes to succeed as first lady, called on delegates to help hurricane victims.
"I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible," she said.
"As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats."
Republicans are taking extreme care to show sympathy to Hurricane Gustav victims after President George W. Bush's presidency and the party as a whole saw their political fortunes hammered by the Hurricane Katrina debacle.
As well as a fundraising drive, the Republican delegates are also putting together 80,000 comfort packages of supplies for hurricane victims at the conference venue in the midwest state of Minnesota.
Earlier, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama called on his two million donors to donate funds to help hurricane victims.
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