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Echoes of Obama at Republican convention in Tampa

August 25, 2012|By Cathleen Decker
  • Comments by President Obama on the economy and jobs will be invoked at the Republican national convention, which starts Monday.
Comments by President Obama on the economy and jobs will be invoked at the… (Mark Wilson/Getty Images )

TAMPA, Fla. -- Republicans are two days from the start of their national convention -- if a storm named Isaac cooperates -- but the voice echoing through their convention hall here Saturday afternoon was that of their nemesis: President Obama.

As news crews readied their positions for the planned Monday convention start, convention workers ran through a video presentation that will likely be front and center once the now-empty seats are filled with delegates.

The focus was a line from a speech Obama delivered to Chrysler workers in Toledo, Ohio, in June 2011. As circumscribed by the video playing at the convention hall, Obama said, “There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery.”

At that came a succession of supposed voters, each declaring: “I'm an American, not a bump in the road.”

Those on the video -- black, Latino, women, men, even children -- held up signs:

“Where are the jobs?”

“The company I work for just went bankrupt.”

“Degree: 2009. Unemployed: 2011.”

The video played on multiple monitors on the convention stage, all of which were framed in wood, as though a collage of pictures on a living room wall. (Event organizers have said they used wood because of the comfy feelings it was meant to inspire.)

The full quote, as uttered by Obama, reflected the concerns expressed by the sign-holders in the Republican video.

“Now, I don’t want to pretend like everything is solved,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go not just in this industry, but in our economy; for all our friends, all our neighbors who are still feeling the sting of recession. There’s nobody here who doesn’t know someone who is looking for work and hasn’t found something yet. Even though the economy is growing, even though it’s created more than 2 million jobs over the past 15 months, we still face some tough times. We still face some challenges. This economy took a big hit. You know, it’s just like if you had a bad illness, if you got hit by a truck, it’s going to take a while for you to mend. And that’s what’s happened to our economy. It’s taking a while to mend.

“And there are still some head winds that are coming at us. Lately, it’s been high gas prices that have caused a lot of hardship for a lot of working families. And then you had the economic disruptions following the tragedy in Japan. You got the instability in the Middle East, which makes folks uncertain. There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery. We’re going to pass through some rough terrain that even a Wrangler would have a hard time with. We know that.”

But conventions are for pressing a specific point, so the line cited was the one meant to suggest the president was oblivious to American concerns. Conventions are also meant to press the point that the parties holding them are one big happy family. That may have been the sentiment behind another video playing in the hall Saturday, a tribute to former Mitt Romney primary opponent Ron Paul.

A host of party leaders -- Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina among them -- heralded Paul as calling the country's focus to its burgeoning debt. Although a Ron Paul celebration in Tampa has been something of a bust, the Romney forces have as a convention goal to, at minimum, placate the libertarian icon, whose supporters Republicans need to have on hand in November.

As for the convention itself, the official word was that the event was a go, despite tropical storm warnings and blustery winds in the area. But Florida Gov. Rick Scott's most recent advisory left some wiggle room.

“Individuals planning to travel to Florida this weekend for the Republican National Convention are advised that as of this morning, the Tampa International Airport is open for business,” he said in a statement. “Travelers should check with their airline before changing any travel plans to Florida. There is no need to cancel hotel reservations at this time due to Tropical Storm Isaac. Florida is the No. 1 tourism destination in the country and is accustom (sic) to handling weather events as related to visitors.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meantime, urged those in Florida to keep watch.

“As Tropical Storm Isaac moves closer to Florida, local residents need to be prepared,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a statement. “FEMA and its federal partners remain in close coordination with states and tribal governments across the Southeast as Tropical Storm Isaac continues to move out of the Caribbean. Residents in this area should make sure to listen to local officials for updates and information. Check your family plans and emergency supplies, review your evacuation routes and remember that evacuation orders come from local officials.”

cathleen.decker@latimes.com

twitter: @cathleendecker

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