Elections 2012: Republican Convention Delayed As Hurricane Isaac Approaches

Republican officials delayed the start of the Republican Convention in Tampa on Saturday as Florida braced for Tropical Storm Isaac.

Republican officials abruptly announced plans Saturday evening to scrap the first day of their national convention, bowing to a threat posed by Tropical Storm Isaac, churning toward Florida. Photo: PBS NewsHour/Flickr

Republicans will delay the start of their national convention in Tampa, Florida by one day due to Tropical Storm Isaac, the Republican National Committee chairman said on Saturday.

“Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

He added: “Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area.”

“The Republican National Convention will take place and officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the Party has other necessary business it must address,” Priebus pointed out in the statement.

According to Reuters, tropical Storm Isaac storm has pummeled Haiti, killing at least four people and has now moved on to Cuba.

Fueled by warm Gulf waters, Isaac was forecast to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane with 100-mph (160-kph) winds and hit the U.S. coast somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and New Orleans around midweek.

Bridges linking places like Clearwater and St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa are expected to flood if heavy rains hit the city, making passage extremely dangerous. Officials said the roll call vote would be moved to Tuesday, at approximately the same time, reports The  Huff Post.

Despite the severe weather threat, a party for delegates scheduled for Sunday night will go on as planned, and officials confirmed that they have not yet received any cancellations from state delegations.

The Republican convention will bring 50,000 visitors to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, home to well over 4 million people. Over the last few days local authorities have said they could handle the crowds and the approaching storm.

Russ Schriefer, a representative from the Romney campaign, said they would adjust times and try to fit in as many speakers as possible in three days instead of the planned four-day event.

“I think the important thing is that, even as .. the days will be abbreviated, … we’ll absolutely be able to get our message out,” Schriefer said.

The announcement made the GOP convention the party’s second in a row to be disrupted by weather. Four years ago, the delegates gathered in St. Paul, Minn., but Hurricane Gustav, slamming the Gulf Coast, led to a one-day postponement, writes Charlotte Observer.

Then the party, still reeling from criticism of Republican President George W. Bush’s handling of devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005, rushed to delay the meeting out of respect for Gustav’s victims.

Mitt Romney campaigned with running mate Paul Ryan in battleground Ohio as delegates arrived in Florida by the planeload. Across town, technicians completed the conversion of a hockey arena along Tampa Bay into a red, white and blue-themed convention hall.

In Ohio he former Massachusetts governor pledged to help women entrepreneurs and innovators who are eager to create small businesses and the jobs that go with them. It was an economy-themed countdown to the Republican National Convention taking shape in a city already bristling with security — and bracing for a possible hurricane.

“Women in this country are more likely to start businesses than men. Women need our help,” said Romney, eager to relegate recent controversy over abortion to the sidelines and make the nation’s slow economic recovery the dominant issue of his convention week.

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