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Normal convention could start Tuesday

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ST. PAUL - The Republican National Convention most likely will begin more traditional operations Tuesday, although delegates will be asked to help prepare packages for Hurricane Gustav victims.

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A storm of another kind could find its way into the convention. GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska today said her unwed 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

Republicans officials this morning said Cindy McCain, wife of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, this afternoon will ask for delegates' help at the end of an abbreviated convention session. Otherwise, delegates mostly will handle routine business today.

Delegates are to elect convention officers, approve rules and other required business from 3 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. today. Cindy McCain is to talk at about 4:50 p.m. First lady Laura Bush also probably will speak about hurricane victims this afternoon.

Plans call for delegates to cast votes for McCain and Palin Wednesday night, followed by Palin's speech to the convention. As things stand now, McCain is due to deliver his acceptance speech in person Thursday night.

On Sunday, McCain asked convention officials to cut back activities at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center in respect for those in Gustav's path. Officials on Sunday, and again today, said they will decide the convention schedule on a day to day basis based on the storm's impact on the Gulf Coast.

This morning, state delegations attended meetings in their headquarters hotels, with Laura Bush visiting with the Louisiana delegation. Many of the 5,000 delegates and alternates also attended other meetings through the morning.

A hurricane information center has been set up at the Xcel and organizers of every convention-related event are being asked to contribute to hurricane relief. GOP leaders are not asking for events to be canceled.

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation is donating goods to be sent to hurricane victims, with FedEx donating space on an airplane. Delegates will be asked to help pack the relief supplies.

A prayer service for hurricane victims was planned for a St. Paul church this afternoon.

While convention activities were scaled back, a large war protest march got under way as planned. Organizers with the Coalition to March on the RNC said they expected up to 50,000 participants for the 1 p.m. march from the Minnesota Capitol to the Xcel Energy Center; a State Patrol officer at noon estimated the crowd size at about 5,000 people.

The four-day convention began today with a more subdued mood than at most conventions after McCain's Sunday request.

But Palin and her husband, Todd, surprised Republicans today by releasing a statement saying their daughter, Bristol, was pregnant.

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us," the statement said. "Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

McCain's campaign told ABC News that he knew of the pregnancy before picking Palin as his running mate.

Palin had been a darling of conservative Republicans. She is a strong pro-life and pro-gun politician.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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