Law enforcement, security and staff sit during preparations for the 2012… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — California’s delegates to the RNC began trickling into their balmy beachfront resort here Friday, finding gift bags full of swag upon their arrival.
Among the contents: rice, walnuts and olive oil from California producers, a campaign Barbie, a flag pin in the shape of Mickey Mouse and a red T-shirt sporting a large sequined elephant. And some practical aids to get them through the next six days that will include not only official Republican Party business but many, many parties – packets of Ibuprofen and vials of 5-hour Energy.
Echoing Floridians, state party officials, delegates and alternate delegates seemed largely unconcerned about Tropical Storm Isaac, the storm system that is crossing Haiti and Cuba on Friday en route to the United States. Reports earlier in the week had raised concerns that the storm would turn into a hurricane that would directly hit Florida’s Gulf Coast, but recent tracking shows it taking a more western path.
“I’m getting calls from people at home, ‘Oh my gosh! What are you going to do?’ ” said Anthony Kuo, an alternate delegate from Irvine and a city planning commissioner. “All the locals are like, ‘Don’t even worry about it.’ ”
Kuo, 29, added, “My main concern has been my hair. I don’t know what to do with high humidity and rain.”
Frank Dolsak Jr., a bartender at the Flying Bridge restaurant, said that this barrier island frequently sees rain and flooding, but always escapes major damage. The local legend is that the Seminole Indians enchanted the area many decades ago.
“Nothing super severe has ever hit,” he said. “You may be skeptical, but they’re batting 1,000.”
Tom Scott, a delegate from Folsom who is also the transportation coordinator for the California delegation, said his concerns have eased as he tracked weather reports as the convention has drawn closer.
“On Monday morning, you wake up and every network is leading with Hurricane Isaac and the GOP convention, and you sort of panic. But then you get more information, and you say, ‘Wait a second, let’s play this day by day, hour by hour,” said Scott, 50. “Right now every model I see has it going west, between Alabama and Louisiana.”
Scott is responsible for transporting California’s 172 delegates and 169 alternates from this barrier island to the convention in Tampa as well as parties and private functions throughout the area. Among the wrinkles he is dealing with – the delegation includes many people unfazed by earthquakes who are not used to rain, and umbrellas are prohibited in the convention center.
“I’ve told the delegates and all the guests, look, be prepared. There is definitely going to be rain and there’s going to be a period of rain and wind for 24 hours” where wind speeds could reach 50 mph, he said.
But for Scott, the possible ugly weather does not take the shine off the convention. He has supported Mitt Romney since 2008, and is his Northern California regional chair.
“For me, this has been a lot of work to get this man and his family and see him finally nominated for the presidency,” he said. “It’s a great moment.”