Republicans cancel 1st day of convention due to storm threats
BY LYNN SWEET AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters August 25, 2012 5:56PM
Workers prepare the stage for the Republican National Convention inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Updated: September 27, 2012 11:45AM
TAMPA, FL. — Because of the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac, which might reach hurricane strength, Republican officials have canceled Monday’s first session.
“We can’t predict how severe the wind is going to be and what the damage can possibly be, so we have to do the smart thing and put safety first and yet still protect our ability to conduct all the business that we need to conduct next week in order to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a conference call Saturday night.
Romney convention officials said most of the speakers scheduled over four days would be packed into three. Democrats who meet next week in Charlotte, N.C., have put together a three-day convention.
Russ Schriefer, a Romney for President senior strategist — and the producer of the convention — said in the conference call that even with a day cut off the program, “we will absolutely be able to get our message out.”
Priebus said that due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area the convention will have a brief perfunctory session on Monday — where no business will take place except to reconvene on Tuesday.
Illinois Republicans expect a contingent of about 350 delegates, alternate delegates and their families and other guests in Tampa, and most of those people were expected to fly in Sunday, the day before the peak of the storm is expected.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, chairman of Romney’s Illinois campaign and the state GOP convention delegation, said Saturday evening it’s impossible to judge how many from Illinois might not make it to Florida Sunday.
“There’s no way to know. But my guess is it’ll be strictly based on any disruption of commercial airlines,” Rutherford told the Sun-Times.
Rutherford predicted ultimately Isaac won’t be that big of a disruption for the week’s activities, including daily breakfasts involving the state delegation, and that the Republican National Committee’s move is strictly based on erring on the side of safety.
“I realize this is an opportunity for a big hype story. But they wouldn’t go ahead with the welcome reception if they thought there were imminent problems. It’s just that they don’t want to be putting hundreds and hundreds of buses on roads when there may be high winds when don’t need to,” Rutherford said.
The loss of the Monday session — where the roll of states was to be called to nominate Mitt Romney as the GOP candidate for president — comes on a day the three major networks were not planning on televising the proceedings. The roll call now will take place Tuesday.
Because of the lack of network coverage, the Romney team Friday already switched Ann Romney’s keynote from Monday to Tuesday night.
Even if Isaac does not reach hurricane status, the bad weather would still create problems for the 50,000 convention visitors expected for the event.