As the hurricane rages, the Republican National Convention gets off to a subdued start
Credit: Rick Wilking/ Reuters/ Landov

So much for the party.

“George and I were planning to come to enjoy this convention, to have a really good time,” First Lady Laura Bush told disappointed delegates Monday as Hurricane Gustav rained on plans for a festive opening to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Instead, she and Cindy McCain headlined an abbreviated, business-only afternoon session of the convention, using the opportunity to plug charities helping Gulf Coast victims of the hurricane.

“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.

“This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats,” added McCain.

As expected, celebrity turnout for the Republicans was almost nil, with country music star John Rich – of the recording duo Big & Rich – standing as the biggest name for Monday night.

Rich – who has written a campaign theme song for Sen. John McCain called “Raisin’ McCain” – performed at Lifetime TV’s Rock The Vote party. In keeping with the day’s charitable theme, the bash doubled as a fund-raiser for the American Red Cross.