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US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during campaign event WatsTruck Supply Hobbs New Mexico August 23 2012. US President

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during campaign event at Watson Truck and Supply in Hobbs, New Mexico, on August 23, 2012. US President Barack Obama clearly leads his Republican rival Romney in the battleground of Ohio but the race has tightened considerably in two other key states ahead of the November 6 elections, a new poll said Thursday. Obama continues to enjoy a 6-point advantage in Ohio with 50 percent compared to 44 percent for his challenger, according to the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SamadJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

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Updated: September 27, 2012 11:32AM



WASHINGTON—Republicans are heading to Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney for president with storms hanging over their convention — some natural, some man-made.

Isaac — poised to hit Tampa as a hurricane or a tropical storm — forced the Romney team on Saturday night to cancel the Monday opening session in the face of massive potential logistical and safety issues.

Even without weather issues, unforeseen events are throwing the four-day convention off-script:

† The latest was a gaffe Friday by Romney, while campaigning in Michigan, where he seemed to revive the discredited President Barack Obama birth certificate issue.

Romney told a crowd he was born in Michigan as was his wife, Ann, and and “no one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this was the place that we were born and raised.”

“Throughout this campaign, Gov. Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. “Gov. Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

† Late Friday, convention planners switched Ann Romney’s keynote to Tuesday night after failing to persuade the networks to broadcast the now-canceled Monday night session. NBC, ABC and CBS plan only Tuesday-Thursday coverage.

Mrs. Romney had been scheduled as a Monday headliner. With Romney lagging behind President Barack Obama in “likability” and with women, Mrs. Romney’s speech is intended to humanize her husband and make more of a personal connection. The campaign wants her to have maximum exposure.

Earlier on Friday, campaign strategist Russ Schriefer told reporters in a conference call that he was “optimistic,” regarding Monday — but that was not to be.

“We understand only covering three nights,” Schriefer said. “What we find puzzling is why everyone has to cover the same three nights.”

† The Romney campaign is also going into the convention having to deal with the fallout from GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin — from the battleground state of Missouri — who last week triggered an uproar when he said that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant.

Democrats have been playing up the Akin remark even as Romney called for him to quit the Senate race.

An Obama campaign adviser told reporters at a Thursday briefing, “I think that Hurricane Todd has already borne down on Tampa and the damage has been done. And I don’t think whether he stays on or not is that material.”

The overall convention message is a “Better Future,” with the subtheme Monday, “We Can Do Better.” On Tuesday, the campaign continues to hammer Obama over his “you didn’t build that” remark with a “We Built It” night followed by a “We Can Change It” evening.

Former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (D-Texas) will get a tribute Tuesday night: a short video — a bow to the Tea Party movement and to head off any problems from his collection of die-hard delegates.

“Congressman Paul’s people came to us and said they’d like to do a small tribute to him, and we said absolutely, it would be a good time to do that.” Schriefer said. Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is scheduled to speak during the convention.

Romney accepts the nomination Thursday, a “We Believe in America” night to showcase his biography — and, in a rare move disclosed on Friday, shine a spotlight on his faith.

The first Mormon to be a presidential nominee, Romney rarely speaks about his religion in public, even though it is a major element of his life story. While he was at Bain Capital in Boston, Romney was a bishop for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“As part of telling Gov. Romney’s story, we will be having several people who he worked with through his church, that he helped in different times of their lives; we will have someone who followed Gov. Romney as a leader in the church, he’ll talk about what it was like to fill Gov. Romney’s shoes in that role,” Schriefer said.

The convention that night will also highlight Romney’s management of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic winter games through appearances by three 2002 Utah Olympians.

It’s not unusual for Democrats and Republicans to run “war room” operations at each others’ conventions; what’s different this time is how much the Democrats were trying to raise the ante.

Vice President Joe Biden canceled a two day swing through Florida because of the weather emergency, the Obama campaign said. On Friday, Biden shelved a Monday speech in Tampa; on Saturday night a Tuesday trip to Orlando and St. Augustine was also scratched.

Florida is another critical battleground state in the quest to get to 270 electoral votes; Biden will be in Florida to stump Tuesday in St. Augustine and Orlando, where he will appear with actress and campaign co-chair Eva Longoria.

Democrats meet in Charlotte, N.C., next week, with a three-night convention.

With the spotlight quickly pivoting to the Obama-Biden ticket, Obama campaign advisers figure they will get the last word — and be able to limit any “bump” Romney gets in Tampa.



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