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McCain's VP pick helps fundraising, draws scorn
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin spent time getting to know each other on Saturday after the Alaska governor's surprise addition to the Republican ticket ignited fundraising and drew Democratic scorn.
But forecasts that Hurricane Gustav could come ashore as a powerful storm in Louisiana by late Monday or early Tuesday distracted attention from next week's Republican convention and revived memories of the widely criticized response of President George W. Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
Bush is scheduled on Monday evening to address the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, that will nominate McCain and Palin, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration was making contingency plans that could include Bush addressing his fellow Republicans via satellite instead.
"We continue to track the path of the storm and there is no scheduling change to speak of yet," she told reporters. Republican convention organizers said they were also monitoring the storm and considering contingencies.
McCain and his wife, Cindy, joined Palin, her husband, Todd, and their children for a visit with voters at a local diner in Pennsylvania and a ride on McCain's campaign bus on Saturday.
The Arizona senator announced his vice presidential choice on Friday after hosting Palin at his Arizona home on Thursday. It was only the second time the two had met in person.
Palin's conservative credentials, including strong anti-abortion views and a record of confronting entrenched interests during less than two years as governor of Alaska, energized conservatives, who poured money into the campaign.
"We raised over $4 million online" on Friday, said senior adviser Steve Schmidt, who is in charge of day-to-day campaign operations. He said the campaign had never made more than $1 million in a single day over the Internet before.
Frank Donatelli, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, said the party had also brought in several hundred thousand dollars since the announcement.
Democrats and national newspaper editorials were critical of the choice and of the first-term Alaska governor's lack of experience.
"No one knows whether Sarah Palin could be a competent president, which shows how highly political and potentially reckless this choice is," New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement.
Democratic nominee Barack Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, said he had never met Palin.
"She seems to have a compelling life story. Obviously, she's a fine mother and an up-and-coming public servant," Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes," according to a transcript released by the TV network.
"It's too early for me to gauge what kind of running mate she'll be. My sense is that she subscribes to John McCain's agenda," he said.
CRITICISM OF PALIN, CONCERN ABOUT GUSTAV
The Obama campaign, seeking to highlight skepticism of McCain's pick, sent out an e-mail with dozens of quotes from editorials across the country, including Palin's home state of Alaska, where she is popular, questioning her preparedness.
"Republicans rightfully have criticized the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, for his lack of experience, but Palin is a neophyte in comparison," wrote Alaska's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
"Governor Palin's lack of experience, especially in national security and foreign affairs, raises immediate questions about how prepared she is to potentially succeed to the presidency," wrote The New York Times.
The RNC's Donatelli dismissed the criticism.
"John McCain found a partner as a reformer," he told a conference call with reporters. "Senator McCain has not only succeeded in unifying or party, but also in generating great enthusiasm."
He said next week's convention could be adjusted depending on the progress of Hurricane Gustav, although he indicated a postponement was unlikely.
McCain said in a taped interview with Fox News that the convention could be curtailed or postponed.
"It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," he said.
Obama urged relief organizations and people in New Orleans, which was devastated by Katrina, to be prepared.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan, Tim Ryan and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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