Elections 2012: Tropical Storm Isaac Rewrites Script for Republican National Convention

Tropical Storm Isaac strained Republican party’s highly scripted plans for showcasing Mitt Romney and raising the possibility that news media attention could shift elsewhere.

Isaac messes up plans for GOP delegates in Tampa. Photo: PBS NewsHour/Flickr

With the Tropical Storm Isaac now forecast to roar northwest past Tampa on Monday and Tuesday, officials tried to reconfigure what had been a four-night schedule into three and to make contingency plans for further changes.

The revised schedule included a symbolic 10-minute session on Monday in a nearly empty hall, during which officials intend to launch a debt clock set to zero. The political objective is to show how much the government borrows throughout the convention week, reports The Huff Post.

Republicans were careful of the optics of television coverage split between the revelry and partisanship surrounding Mitt Romney’s nomination and the threat of the storm making landfall in Louisiana or Mississippi seven years to the week after Hurricane Katrina left an American city in ruins.

Weather forecasters said that Isaac, which killed nine people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, may strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday on the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Louisiana.

According to LA Times, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged delegates and others attending the convention to avoid unnecessary travel in the flood-prone region on Monday. Scott, a Republican, earlier said he would skip the convention altogether to devote his full energy to the storm.

“Don’t start venturing into the Tampa site, because you don’t know what’s going to happen as far as your ability to get home,” Scott said after a morning briefing with local, state and federal officials.

Fearing high winds and pelting rains, Republicans had already canceled most of Monday’s formal events and they could not rule out a delay on Tuesday.

“We’re 100 percent full steam ahead on Tuesday,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, expressing confidence the one-day delay would be the extent of the cancellations.

On Sunday afternoon, the White House sent out a statement detailing Mr. Obama’s call to the Republican governor here, Rick Scott, reports The New York Times.

“The president also told the governor to let him know if there are any unmet needs or additional resources the administration could provide, including in support of efforts to ensure the safety of those visiting the state for the Republican National Convention,” it read.

Romney, former Massachusetts governor delivers his acceptance speech Thursday night before a prime time TV audience, then sets out on the final leg of a quest for the presidency that spans two campaigns and more than five years.

Meanwhile, Romney cited the program in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about the party’s firm antiabortion stance and Democratic assertions that the GOP is waging a “war on women.”

“Look, I’m the guy who was able to get healthcare for all the women and men in my state,” Romney said. “We actually did something and we did it without cutting Medicare and without raising taxes. I’m very proud of what we did and the fact that we helped women and men and children in our state.”

For all the Republican attempts to make the election a referendum on the incumbent’s handling of the economy, other events have intervened.

Asked about Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri and his comments on “legitimate rape” and pregnancy, Romney again condemned the Senate candidate’s remarks as “outrageous and offensive.” Akin has ignored Romney and other party leaders who urged him to step aside rather than risk losing a competitive Senate race.

“I’ve distanced myself from the thing he said as far as I possibly can,” Romney said, suggesting that Democrats were using Akin’s statement to cast a shadow on his entire party.

Romney and other party officials unsuccessfully sought to persuade Akin to quit the race. Democrats have latched onto the controversy, noting not only what Akin said but also his opposition to abortion in all cases.

Aside from the threat posed by Isaac, parts of Tampa were quite possibly the safest place in the world. Like rings around a bull’s eye, concentric circles of security surrounded the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the convention was to gavel open for a brief, perfunctory session Monday.

“The convention was a big opportunity for our state to show what a great place it is to live, work and play. Now what they’re going to find out this week is we know how to deal with hurricanes,” Gov. Scott said. “We’re prepared.”

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