Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus officially called the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa to order on Monday, then two minutes later adjourned for the day. The brief session was a rules-dictated formality; Priebus had canceled the first day of the four-day convention over the weekend, as Tropical Storm Isaac careened toward Florida. Isaac largely spared Tampa, veering west over the Gulf of Mexico, but now most forecasts expect it to make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday, as a Category 2 hurricane, somewhere near southeastern Louisiana. The idea of the GOP holding a high-profile partisan frolic while a major hurricane ravages New Orleans, exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, is casting its own pall over the convention: Republicans are considering contingency plans to shorten the event further, some news organizations are moving reporters from Tampa to New Orleans, and Rush Limbaugh is darkly warning that President Obama is manipulating the National Hurricane Center's models to thwart Mitt Romney's launch party. Republican officials are publicly upbeat, but has Isaac already spoiled their big party?
The show must go on: Isaac "is giving every reporter with a microphone a chance to remind the world of Hurricane Katrina's destruction," and the damage it did "to the second term of the last Republican president," says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But we hope the GOP doesn't let the storm, or the naysayers, "interfere with their serious business of nominating Mitt Romney." Surely the TV networks can cut away from Isaac for the hour they've already committed each night to let Romney "tell America who he is and how he would govern."
"A convention hurricane"
Isaac has already rained out the GOP message: "Isaac is more than just a logistical inconvenience for Republicans gathered in Tampa," says The New York Times in an editorial. It's an unwelcome reminder that Romney would govern by slashing the budgets for disaster preparedness, "exactly the kind of money needed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and scores of other states for this and future storms." Even as the Tampa speakers expound on "the failure of government, and the prosperity that will result if it is cut to ribbons," the damage of Isaac and ghosts of Katrina will remind America why they're wrong.
"The storm, again"
The storm actually helps the GOP: This convention is actually the second post-Katrina Republican convention, and the second shortened because of a hurricane, says Patt Morrison at the Los Angeles Times. And John McCain's 2008 party was held in hurricane-immune Minnesota, "but not out of the range of split-screen PR." In Tampa, people will be closely observing how the tightly scripted Romney convention "handles this wild pitch" — in fact, "I expect more people will be tuning in to watch the convention now, because of Isaac's potential for disruption." If the GOP wants people to watch, this hint of chaos could be ratings gold.
"A wet time in the old town: The damper on the GOP in Tampa"
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