First day at the RNC uneventful

What was set to be a celebratory kickoff of the 2008 Republican National Convention instead was an appeal to send help to Hurricane Gustav victims. First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, stood together at the Xcel Energy Center to ask Americans to help. âÄúOur thoughts and prayers are with you,âÄù Bush said. âÄúThe American people are here to do what we can to assist.âÄù The afternoonâÄôs RNC session lasted about three hours following John McCainâÄôs earlier announcement that only necessary business would be conducted out of respect for GustavâÄôs victims. Cindy McCain echoed her husbandâÄôs earlier sentiment that convention-goers should âÄútake off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.âÄù But what was billed as an apolitical, bipartisan start to the RNC was not without its rhetoric. âÄúYouâÄôre seeing Republican governors in Republican states taking care of citizens,âÄù Texas Gov. Rick Perry said of relief efforts, in a video statement played for delegates. âÄúThatâÄôs what we do.âÄù Still, aside from procedural necessities, the conventionâÄôs session was spent distributing information about how delegates and television viewers could send help. The truncated start to the RNC was a far cry from what organizers originally had planned. President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney were supposed to address attendees Monday night along with Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. But not having to share the stage with President Bush and Cheney might not be the worst thing for the party, Paula OâÄôLoughlin , an elections expert and political science professor at the UniversityâÄôs Morris campus, said. âÄúTheyâÄôre not the most popular people,âÄù she said. But as news media and the countryâÄôs attention are drawn to the Gulf Coast rather than St. Paul, it could be a missed opportunity for Republicans, OâÄôLoughlin said. âÄúThey are missing a chance to get all this TV time,âÄù she said. âÄúAnd itâÄôs a tight race.âÄù âÄîKarlee Weinmann contributed to this report.