Clouds gather over the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the Republican National… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.--Republican Party officials Saturday night canceled most of the Monday opening of the GOP's presidential nominating convention, bowing to the threat posed as Tropical Storm Isaac barrelled toward Florida.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we want to make sure everyone attending the convention is safe and everyone in Florida is not unnecessarily hindered by any activities taking place," Bill Harris, the convention's chief executive, said in a telephone briefing to reporters.
Under the revised plans, the convention will formally gavel open on Monday, then recess until Tuesday. The roll call officially installing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the party's presidential nominee will take place Tuesday, instead of Monday as originally planned.
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His acceptance speech, the highlight of the convention, remains set for Thursday night. Romney's wife, Ann, is scheduled to speak Tuesday and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Wednesday.
Isaac was headed on a track past the Tampa Bay area toward landfall perhaps in the Florida Panhandle, but its trajectory was not clear Saturday night. The storm was wide enough that it was expected to affect much of the flood-prone Tampa area, with gusts as strong as 70 mph or more.
The cancellation marked the second Republican convention in a row disrupted by the force of nature. In 2008, the GOP called off its first night of programming in St. Paul, Minn., out of deference to Louisianans being pounded by Hurricane Gustav.
Russ Schriefer, the chief convention strategist for the Romney campaign, professed not to worry about the truncated schedule, saying the candidate would still manage to convey his message, assailing President Obama and promoting his own policies.
"We believe even though we were planning on doing it in four days, we can absolutely do it in three," Schriefer said.
The disruption will not affect Romney's travel plans. After a campaign stop in Ohio, the candidate headed Saturday to his vacation home in New Hampshire. Campaign officials had always said the nominee-in-waiting would not arrive at the convention until later in the week, as is customary.