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GOP convention on track for Tuesday as nation's eyes turn to Isaac

August 26, 2012|By Paul West

The tropical system known as Isaac, which could hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday, will be the focus of intense media attention this week.  The timing of the storm's landfall, the day before Mitt Romney is scheduled to accept the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa, Fla., could pose a problem for Romney image-makers.

But Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus shrugged off the potential distraction, as GOP planners scrambled to reprogram their nomination convention. The GOP gathering has already lost at least one of its four scheduled days as a result of Isaac.

"It is what it is," Priebus told CNN's Candy Crowley, who asked about Mother Nature's decision to provide counterprogramming. The party leader said the convention would still tell the Romney story, once the event resumes. Network television exposure has been diminished from years past, with only one hour of prime-time coverage by the major commercial networks scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

PHOTOS: Preparations for the GOP convention

The latest plan is for thousands of delegates to convene early Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting. An exact start time is like to be announced later Sunday, according to Priebus. Most of the scheduled speakers will be accommodated, he said, though there could be "some shortening of speeches."

In a new tidbit about the decision to scrap Monday's opening-night session, Priebus said one of the complicating factors was an order, which he attributed to the Secret Service, to remove all the temporary tenting outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum in advance of the storm. That meant there would have been more people standing in the rain, waiting to get into the convention hall.

Priebus didn't mention how long it could take to put that tenting back up, something that can't be completed until high winds and rain from Isaac move away from the Tampa area.  Tropical storm conditions — winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour — are possible through Monday night in the convention city, according to the National Weather Service.

Yet to be seen, as well, is the impact of possible flooding from a storm surge associated with Isaac. Rainfall, expected to reach from four to 12 inches, could also be a factor.  The convention arena is located in a low-lying area near downtown Tampa that is prone to flooding.

PHOTOS: The protests of the GOP convention

Priebus sounded unequivocal when he said the convention would resume on Tuesday. 

"No, no, no, no.  We’re 100% full steam ahead on Tuesday," he said.

It's worth noting, perhaps, that Priebus said Friday that the convention was "full steam ahead," a day before the decision to cancel the first day.

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paul.west@latimes.com

Twitter: @paulwestdc

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