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Hurricane Isaac delays start of Republican National Convention in Tampa

As in 2008, Republicans scramble to adjust speaking and travel schedules to cope with the hurricane. The vote to formally nominate Mitt Romney shifts to Tuesday – for now. Stay tuned.

By Staff writer / August 25, 2012

Workers prepare the stage for the Republican National Convention inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday, in Tampa, Fla.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Hurricane Isaac will sink at least one day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, organizers announced Saturday evening.

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The convention will convene Monday but suspend all activities until a time to be determined on Tuesday, a senior strategist for Mitt Romney, the chair of the national Republican Party, and the convention’s president said in a conference call with reporters.

“We believe that even though we were planning on doing it four days, we think we can absolutely do it in three,” said Russ Schriefer, the senior Romney strategist, on the call.

The cancellation marks the second consecutive Republican National Convention to have a first day cancelled due to storms. In 2008, hurricane Gustav hit landfall in Louisiana just as the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., was to begin.

Now, hurricane Issac brings up a few logistical questions on a stage where logistics matter: Conventions for both parties are highly choreographed showcases of the party in which the order of speakers, for example, is assembled carefully to ensure that both party insiders and the viewing public see an appealing image.

Monday was the day scheduled for the vote to formally nominate Mitt Romney as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate – that vote will move back to Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.

No state delegations have backed out of the convention, and the organizers said they were working to secure alternative transportation and accommodation options should the need arise.

“We have a lot of people that need to plan,” Mr. Priebus said. “We’re not going to put delegates on a bunch of buses over the bridges between Clearwater and St. [Petersburg] when we can’t predict how severe the wind is going to be."

The speaking schedule, too, needs to be rejiggered. Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, beloved by libertarians and the object of some presidential speculation, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, among others, were both slated to speak Monday night.

Mr. Schriefer said they would attempt to fit all of the speakers into the remaining three days and may open official convention business earlier than previously planned to accommodate more speakers.

In an e-mail Saturday evening, Priebus noted that the convention was working with local, state, and federal agencies to determine the path forward. The RNC said it would be providing a revised convention schedule as early as Sunday.

Before Saturday’s announcement, the storm had already changed convention plans in smaller ways. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) gave up his speaking slot on Monday night to monitor the storm. Vice President Joe Biden cancelled his Tuesday trip to Florida to free up law enforcement to handle Isaac’s potential impact.

“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,” Priebus said in the e-mail.

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