Isaac Forces Change to RNC Schedule

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2012 5:15 PM

Tropical Storm Isaac Forces Republicans To Shift Convention Plans

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Workers attach a Romney Ryan 2012 sign at the Tampa Bay Times Forum

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages

UPDATE: Republicans are exploring the possibility of extending the convention by a day, until Friday, a senior party official tells the National Journal.

Sunday August 26 at 1:15 p.m.: Tropical Storm Isaac began hitting South Florida with rain and strong winds Sunday, forcing the organizers of the Republican National Convention in Tampa to alter the schedule amid fears of widespread flooding. The first day of the convention was canceled, but Republicans were hopeful Sunday that Isaac’s slight shift westward could help them avoid further disruption to the event, reports the New York Times.

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Despite some optimism, there seems to be little chance Isaac won’t continue to cause headaches for Republicans down the road as forecasters say it’s likely the storm will strengthen, probably to a hurricane, and hit the Gulf Coast somewhere between Florida and Louisiana by the middle of the week, notes Reuters. That means Isaac could easily steal the limelight from Mitt Romney in what is largely seen as a critical opportunity for the Republican to introduce himself to Americans before the final stretch of the campaign.

Even as organizers canceled the official first night of the convention, most of the other events in Tampa are going ahead as planned for now, reports Politico. The convention’s official welcome party on Sunday will still go ahead as scheduled, although Lynyrd Skynyrd’s planned performance in the evening has been scrapped, notes the Washington Post. Ron Paul’s campaign still expects a crowd of more than 10,000 to gather for a rally at the University of South Florida. Yet it seems evident the storm will at least affect turnout at some of the earlier events and fundraisers, points out ABC News.

Republicans are set to officially convene the gathering Monday but will then recess until Tuesday. Even as party officials tried to sound confident the rest of the week would not be affected, the truth is the storm’s path remains highly uncertain.

“We are 100 percent full steam ahead on Tuesday,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday morning on CNN. Isaac is so large that it could end up causing “significant damage even in places where it does not pass directly overhead,” notes the Associated Press.

In Haiti, the storm killed seven people, including a 10-year-old girl, while three people remain missing in the Dominican Republic, according to Reuters.

Saturday, August 25 at 5:23 p.m.: Tropical Storm Isaac hit Cuba Saturday after drenching Haiti’s southern peninsula, where it killed at least three people in the country still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, reports the Associated Press. With the help of warm Gulf waters, the tropical storm is forecast to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane before hitting the Florida Keys Sunday, notes Reuters.

Florid Gov. Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency, noting on Saturday that the storm’s current path “is not positive for our state,” reports the Miami Herald. The National Huricane Center has placed the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida under a hurricane warning.

The tropical storm was the big news in the Tampa Bay area as delegates, media, and others began descending into the region for the Republican National Convention. Convention organizers say they have contingency plans in place but have so far refused to discuss them publicly, notes McClatchy. This isn’t the first time Republicans have been forced to deal with the effects of bad weather during a convention. In 2008, the GOP was forced to alter its program when two hurricanes forced governors of Louisiana and Florida to cancel their scheduled speeches and head home.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.