MINNEAPOLIS -- It's just crazy to predict the political impact the abbreviated Republican convention -- cut short by Hurricane Gustav -- will have on the outcome of the McCain/Obama presidential contest.
There is no polling model for this. Until the severity of the storm -- expected to hit the gulf region today -- is known, GOP convention planners can't decide if they will do any political business here in the Twin Cities. The hand dealt to John McCain does not translate into an automatic boost for Obama.
The bounce Obama earned from his spectacular convention last week in Denver may be hard to hold as the reporting this week correctly downplays politics because of the natural disaster.
The Republicans made the right decision. The inside of the Xcel Center in St. Paul is decorated with McCain's convention theme "Country First." Now it's Hurricane First.
There's a silver lining for McCain. The Obama convention was so well-executed with its finale Thursday at Invesco Field, with Obama speaking to 84,000, that I could not see how McCain could come close in Minnesota.
By putting the hurricane first, McCain was able to send a message to the independents he and Obama are wooing -- and make it impossible for anyone to fairly compare what will remain of his convention to Denver. It also -- said John Feehery, a GOP strategist -- "blows away any memory of the Obama show."
The storm will also take some attention from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's surprise pick to be his running mate. She gets some time to get her feet on the ground
And, as Feehery told me, "that is not a bad thing because that protects her from intense media scrutiny."
That's in the short term, as Democratic opposition researchers jump on their dog sleds to hunt for stuff, as will journalists. Earlier Sunday, I interviewed Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle. She belongs to a very small club, of current female Republican governors. She's one; Palin and Connecticut's Jodi Rell are the others.
With Palin on the ticket, Lingle said, "You will see a lot of women who are independents, even some Democrats, saying, 'This is too important not to cast my vote for the Republican ticket.'"
The convention was to have been the place where McCain would showcase Palin. While she will show up, it won't be the same if she has to end up sharing her media spotlight with a split screen of havoc and pain and suffering and death left in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.
McCain's great need is have Palin get better known quick.
Lingle said, "I happen to know Sarah Palin better than most people do within the political circles, and she will show people why she was selected as she gets out in front of people, and wherever she goes, I would predict people will like her, they will come to understand how smart she is, how tough she is.
"When she introduced herself as an average hockey mom, my reaction was, 'There is nothing average about her.'"
I also chatted with former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.), who said not all was a tragic turn for McCain. Republicans will have Wednesday and Thursday "to recoup" he said.
He paused and added one word.