The following is from the Aug. 1, 2008, edition of SMU political scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

Gustav may have a silver lining for Republicans

By Emily Kaiser and Ed Stoddard

ST. PAUL (Reuters) – Hurricane Gustav's untimely arrival may prove to be just the ticket for Republicans eager to prove they can be compassionate conservatives.

It may also provide an unexpected public relations benefit for Republican National Convention sponsors, many of whom quickly transformed their lavish parties in St. Paul, Minnesota, into gala fund-raisers for Gulf Coast charities.

Treading a fine line between showing genuine concern for those in the path of a deadly storm and appearing to profit from others' misfortune, politicians and the sponsors won plaudits for striking the right balance. . .

"It gives them an opportunity to play off the disaster of Katrina by showing an early and laser-like compassion for the welfare of the people on the Gulf Coast," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"For McCain, it provides him with a chance to focus on issues of compassion, which in his campaign have only been touched on occasionally," he added.

The party's conservative Christian base has been embracing issues of "compassion" as the evangelical movement broadens its agenda beyond hot-button social issues like opposition to abortion and into areas such as alleviating poverty and assisting disaster victims.

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