Downtown Tampa, Fla., was beginning to show signs of the approaching Republican… (Tom Pennington / Getty Images )
TAMPA, Fla. -- Even with the threat of a hurricane, this host city had many familiar signs of a political convention.
Political star-sightings were prevalent at the Tampa airport, including a Republican senator (Thad Cochran of Mississippi) and a freshman congressman (Steve Womack of Arkansas). Greeters welcomed convention-goers making their way to baggage claim and car rentals.
Billboards along the freeway shouted political leanings: "Hope didn't work," said one for conservative author Glenn Beck, in a presumed jab at President Obama's 2008 campaign theme. Another warned against the "liberal" media.
A campaign-styled flag for Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP nominee, waved under gray skies along the route toward downtown.
The police presence has not been shy. Near the convention center site, even before the onslaught of visitors had arrived, clusters of armed law enforcement personnel fanned out for blocks amid high-rises and restaurants on a largely quiet Saturday afternoon with a light drizzle.
Buildings and government offices near the convention center were barricaded.
Several miles away, at the vacation-friendly St. Pete Beach, a street banner welcomed convention delegates and a makeshift sign pointed to a state party for Californians.
Families and kids played at a beachside pool, hardly a hint of the hurricane -- real or political -- in sight. But late Saturday, convention organizers did cancel most of the first day of events, compressing the planned four days of festivities into three, or so they hoped.