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WATERVILLE, OHIO - Sen. John McCain helped pack relief supplies for Hurricane Gustav victims on Monday as the party focused the opening day of its convention into an appeal for aid.
The convention was called to order even as party and McCain campaign officials continued adjusting the schedule in the wake of Gustav hitting the Gulf Coast southwest of New Orleans.
While most celebratory speeches and events were canceled or altered, McCain still plans to accept the party's nomination in St. Paul, as will his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
McCain was in Waterville, Ohio, on Monday morning helping volunteers prepare relief packages at a Christian charity organization.
"Everyone should use whatever gift he or she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms," McCain said, reading from the business card of the charity's chief executive officer, Linda Greene. "As the hurricane strikes, as we speak, all Americans I know will be motivated by those words of serving others."
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis dashed speculation that the candidate would use the backdrop of the disaster to formally accept the Republican nomination.
"We have no anticipation that the senator will receive his nomination anywhere but St. Paul," Davis said.
McCain raised at least $47 million for his campaign in August, his biggest haul of money so far and a sign that he is dispelling doubts among conservative donors.
Two campaign officials discussed the fundraising on the condition of anonymity because the numbers had not been officially tallied.
The amount was just shy of the $50 million that Barack Obama raised in July. Obama campaign officials would not comment on their August fundraising. The campaigns do not have to submit their August financial reports to the Federal Election Commission until Sept. 20.
One official said the Republican Party and the campaign will have between $224 million and $240 million available next week going into the fall campaign. That amount would include the $85 million in public funds that McCain will receive after he officially becomes the Republican nominee on Thursday.
After receiving the federal funds, McCain will be prohibited from raising any more money for his campaign. Any cash that is left in his account on Sept. 1 can be shifted to the Republican National Committee or state party committees that have federal accounts set aside to help his campaign.
The McCain camp expects the Republican National Committee's McCain-Palin Victory '08 fund to raise $100 million in September and October, giving the campaign overall access to more than $300 million for the fall contest.
Obama decided to decline his share of federal funds, anticipating he could raise more though private donations.