GOP delegates from Louisiana keeping eye on storm

Board it up
Steve Schmid works on covering windows with plywood in preparation for a possible evacuation from the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans August 28, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Pat Semansky/Getty Images

Forecasters said Friday for the first time that there's a better than even chance that New Orleans will feel some impact from Gustav, which was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane Friday afternoon.

Gustav is currently predicted to hit the U.S. coast mid-week next week, right in the middle of the Republican National Convention.

Mattie Laque joined the Republican Party a day after going to the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans, and hearing Ronald Reagan speak.

Now, 20 years later, she's in the Twin Cities for her second convention. But her thoughts are back home. Laque lives about 20 miles southwest of New Orleans, in the small St. Charles parish town of Lewling.

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"With the storm hitting the shoreline of our country, the focus will not be on the convention."

All the trees in her neighborhood were knocked down when Katrina hit three years ago, but nothing flooded. This time, the storm's projected path differs enough to worry her.

"I think it's making everybody real apprehensive, just the unknown factor," Laque said Friday morning. "And the convention will actually be started by the time it hits, so we're going to be in the swing of things and it's going to be hitting -- because you don't know anything until it hits."

Laque's husband is back home, in charge of getting her family evacuated. But for now, she says she's not planning to cut her trip to Minnesota short.

One delegate who might not even come, though, is Louisiana State Rep. Nickie Monica.

Monica has booked his family in a hotel far enough from their home to escape the storm. But Monica won't decide whether to get on a plane to Minnesota until later tonight, after a few more updates.

"It's still kind of a ways out, where the landfall is going to be," Monica said Friday morning. "But I can't be in Minneapolis and my district takes a direct hit. That's the decision I have to make."

Both Laque and Monica think the Republican Party should delay the convention, saying it could look bad to host a party during a natural disaster.

Monica says the delay would help focus attention on the storm and recovery, if needed. Plus, he says it would help his party and presumptive nominee John McCain.

"I think you get more out of that than going through with the convention," he noted. "With the storm hitting the shoreline of our country, the focus will not be on the convention. I think [McCain] would get a lot of mileage out of that, but I'm not the decision maker, you know?"

Monica used to be parish president, and says there'd be no way he could leave town with a storm approaching if he still had that job.

As state representative, that pressure isn't there as much, but he admits the parish president in him still makes it hard to think about leaving.