By Suzanne Smalley
Hurricane Gustav has done more than just put a dent in the Republican's party. The surging storm has also complicated a large-scale counteroffensive by Democrats eager to define John McCain as the second coming of George W. Bush. The Democratic National Committee has set up a command center for launching attacks on the GOP ticket-dubbed the "More of the Same" Center--in a labor hall across the street from the Xcel Center in downtown St. Paul. The idea is to be right in the center of the action. "In Denver, the Republicans were a mile
away," Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the DNC crowed. "We couldn't be closer if we were part of the convention program."
But the center has been calmed by the storm; Democrats worry that Gustav's approach would make their planned assault appear unseemly. A DNC rally scheduled for Monday to "welcome George Bush and Dick Cheney to St. Paul" was canceled and other events may be scratched.
LaVera said the DNC has also suspended a mobile advertising caravan they have had following McCain around Ohio out of respect for people on the Gulf Coast.
Still, the small army of DNC fact checkers and communications aides who have descended on St. Paul will have their hands full this week. The party canceled a scheduled press conference because of the storm, but LaVera says the Democrats tentatively plan to hold daily briefings going forward with prominent senators and governors, who will also be made available to local reporters seeking satellite interviews. What’s more, the DNC has posted ads in more than two dozen bus shelters around the Twin Cities featuring Bush and McCain embracing next to the "More of the Same" logo. A similar image is plastered on a massive highway billboard located along the highway running from the airport to the convention hall. LaVera said there's no other way to St. Paul, guaranteeing convention attendees can't miss it.