TAMPA -- The show must go on -- and so it will, albeit a day late, as Republican organizers scrambled to shoehorn four days of speeches, videos, votes and one big balloon drop into three.
Russ Schriefer, Mitt Romney's chief convention strategist, told reporters late Sunday that the local threat of Tropical Storm Isaac had eased sufficiently that he was confident of the organizers' revised plan to convene Tuesday, formally nominate the former governor and move to the business of trying to define the candidate and the stakes in the election before the largest unfiltered audience the new Republican ticket has had in its effort to oust President Obama.
As Isaac tracked to the west over the Gulf of Mexico, rather than hugging the Florida coast as first feared, the Tampa Bay region appeared to have been spared its worst damages, but the storm, on its current path, still had the potential to inflict serious damage to the state's panhandle as well as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, where the governors, joining Florida, had declared states of emergency. Unless its path were to shift again, its greatest threat to the convention wasn't the physical damage it might inflict on Tampa, but the competition is represented for public and media attention at a time when Mr. Romney and his soon-to-be official running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, hope to burnish anew their public images.
As the storm crossed the Florida keys yesterday, winds rose here while hotels, businesses and homeowners secured outdoor furniture and potted plants against rising winds under fast-moving slate clouds. But while almost all of Monday's official events were canceled, along with a smattering of incoming flights, any number of convention-related events went on across the Bay area. In downtown Tampa, blocks from the security perimeter, demonstrators denounced the GOP platform and candidates as a threat to "the 99 percent."
Thousands of social conservatives gathered for a Faith and Freedom Coalition rally that included appearances by former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And on the campus of the University of South Florida, Rep. Ron Paul, greeted thousands of the intensely loyal supporters that kept him in the nomination fight until the end and allowed him to gain control of three state delegations, a breakthrough for his crusade of libertarianism at home and anti-intervention abroad.
First Published August 27, 2012 12:30 AM